Originally, asafo companies served as military organizations. Today they flourish as political, civic, social, and religious organizations whose members commission flags (frankaa) upon initiation. Anyone whose father belonged to an asafo company—virtually everyone—is entitled to join that group, including women. These flags, then, evoke popular power. Frankaa serve as crucial markers of group identity. Flags may be danced, paraded, draped, or otherwise displayed at special events. Through adaptation of European motifs and forms, such as the British flag, asafo companies have appropriated colonial symbols of power and identity for local use.
The Union Jack on the upper left would indicate this flag was produced before 1957, when Ghana achieved independence as a nation from Great Britain. Flags often represent imagery, proverbs, or sayings that boast certain attributes. Here a man holds a rooster in one hand and a clockbird (known for calling out regularly at dawn and dusk) in the other, while balancing a clock on his head. The rooster and clockbird are symbols of authority and power, for they are the ones who decide when things are done. The alarm clock may represent an imported, mechanical version of the bird whose crow marks time.
tags: pattern, animals, movement, community
Gift of the NCMA Docents