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Asafo Company Flag (Frankaa)

Arts of Africa

Asafo is a Fante military institution, made up of local companies, each with its own name, number, regalia, shrine and set of flags, and imagery. This Asafo flag most likely dates from before Ghanaian independence in 1957 (note the British Union Jack in the upper-left canton) and served as an emblem of pride. The image in the field, of a creature looming over a decapitated corpse, suggests a severe warning to hostile parties. Fante arts, from a coastal area subject to more than five hundred years of direct interaction with European traders, bear witness to a long history of the creative borrowing of European forms. The three-headed monster here was probably inspired by the mythical creatures of European heraldry.
MEDIUM Textile with appliqué and embroidery
DATES early to mid–20th century
DIMENSIONS 56 x 36 1/2 in. (142.2 x 92.7 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Designated Purchase Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The object is a double sided, textile (cotton?) Asafo flag. The flag is composed of a patchwork of red, black, blue and beige (cotton?) fabrics sewn together with beige, red or black (cotton?) thread. Appliqué and embroidery are used as design elements on both sides of the flag. The hoist of the flag is made of a band of beige fabric that has been folded over and sewn along the vertical edge to allow room for a pole. An exterior border of fringe, consisting of two layers of cut beige fabric, is found on both the top and bottom lengths and the fly end of the flag. Immediately within the fringe is a single band of alternating red and beige triangular, fabric segments, which interlock to form a bi-color square pattern. The canton (upper left quadrant) is a Union Jack made with a patchwork of red, beige, and blue fabric pieces. The field consists primarily of a black fabric background with appliqué design elements. There is a large, three-headed monster located in the central section of the field. The monster has wings, a curly tail with an arrow tip, and talons. It is composed primarily of beige fabric with red appliqué details on the feet and tail. Black embroidery is used to delineate the swirl of the tail and the outline and pupil of the eye; red to accent the edges of the wings and depict the tongue, whiskers(?), and eye; and beige to depict the teeth. All embroidery appears to be done in a chain stitch. There is a headless figure and shot gun visible below the Union Jack. The figure is a peach-colored fabric appliqué with red embroidery at the neck and along the waist, and black embroidery delineating the fingers. The gun is a red fabric appliqué with red embroidery delineating the trigger and trigger guard.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Fante. Asafo Company Flag (Frankaa), early to mid–20th century. Textile with appliqué and embroidery, 56 x 36 1/2 in. (142.2 x 92.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Designated Purchase Fund, 2009.39.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2009.39.1_PS1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2009.39.1_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
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Fante. <em>Asafo Company Flag (Frankaa)</em>, early to mid–20th century. Textile with appliqué and embroidery, 56 x 36 1/2 in. (142.2 x 92.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Designated Purchase Fund, 2009.39.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2009.39.1_PS1.jpg)