Flying Colors: Asafo Flags of the Fante

Click the above image to listen to the Asafo Proverbs.

Flags are symbols of unity and belonging. They display our allegiances to the world at a glance. The imagery chosen for a flag can convey powerful messages about societal beliefs and values. Cultures worldwide use flags to communicate messages such as identity, intimidation, and cultural values. Flying Colors: Asafo Flags of the Fante showcases colorful flags from the Fante people of Ghana in west Africa. Traditionally used by Fante asafo (civilian militia) companies as visual communication signifying their strength, solidarity, and power over enemies, the flags are animated with images of people, animals, and spirits. Today, asafo flags demonstrate the importance of the companies as integral parts their communities, even as their military role has been eclipsed. 

Flying Colors invites the viewer to explore the relationship between the vibrant imagery on the asafo flags and the oral tradition that inspires it. Each image is the embodiment of a Fante proverb and the figures represent characters that inhabit the social, natural, and supernatural realms, revealing insights into the Fante worldview. The artifacts will be accompanied by information about the historic roots of the asafo companies and the development and iconography of the flags, as well as still and video images of Fante festivals where flag "dancers" celebrate the companies. In addition, the exhibit will encourage visitors to discover personal meaning through an exploration of flag imagery and proverbs in a separate activity room. 

When: April 23 through October 1, 2016 Monday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Except for University Holidays

Where: Art Museum of the University of Memphis 142 Communication and Fine Arts Bldg. 3750 Norriswood Ave. The University of Memphis Memphis, TN 38152

Our thanks to the staff of the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, without whose help this exhibition would not have been possible and Mary Sue and Paul Peter Rosen, whose wonderful collection of asafo flags are on display in this exhibition.

For more information about Mary Sue and Paul Peter Rosen, their travels Ghana, and their collection asafo flags, see their book, Emblems of Power: Asafo Flags from Ghana (2013). The book is available from the authors at ppr2001@med.cornell.edu.

This exhibit was created by University of Memphis undergraduate and graduate students in Art History/Anthropology 4662/6662 – Museum Exhibitions

G. Ballard
R. Chan
E. Coate
T. Deane
A. Domnick
M. Ferguson
B. Garcia
T. Hopkins
C. Rose
Instructor: Dr. Patricia Podzorski