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  • Writer's pictureAsafo Flags

"The Influence of Ships on Asafo Companies in Ghana.

Updated: Apr 15

Asafo companies in Ghana are traditional militia organizations found primarily among the Fante people of the coastal regions. These companies have a long history dating back centuries, originally formed to protect communities from external threats from rival groups in neighboring villages, and European authorities.

The first European ship to arrive on the shores of what is now Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast, was the Portuguese ship São Jorge da Mina in 1471. It was captained by Don Diogo de Azambuja, and its arrival marked the beginning of European exploration and trade in the region, particularly in gold and other valuable commodities.

With the arrival of European ships during the "scramble for Africa", local communities including Asafo groups often found themselves engaged in conflicts against foreign powers, these difficult relationships and interactions influenced the construction of ship motifs in the expression of posuban structures.

Asafo companies such as Kyriem No.2 of Anomabo identify with the ship and perform annually at the Okyir festival which occurs at the start of October for a week with the chiefs and people of Obonoma.

Archive Clip - South Bank Show - 1995

The Kyirem No. 6 Asafo company posuban in Anomabu was outdoored in 1952 and designed by A.A. Mills. The previous iteration of this posuban was also a warship, but it collapsed (“sunk” according to the elders) c. 1950. The earlier shrine, and the first painting of this one, named the vessel “H.M.S. Impregnable,” an appellation that presumably disappeared shortly after independence.

Abese No.5 Asafo Company Posuban, Photo Taken in 2020
Abese No.5 Asafo Company Posuban

Abese No.5 Asafo company posuban in Elmina has also noticeably depicted a ship as their posuban and two European captains at the forefront it was outdoored in 1972 and designed and built by sculpture artist and flag maker Kwamina Amoaku.

Asafo Flag - Unsinkable Ship ca. 1930s
No.2 Unsinkable Ship

This super rare flag from our collection depicts musket-holding members from the No.2 Company boarding a large ship.

Asafo companies often found themselves engaged in conflicts against rival groups from neighboring towns, different tribes, and foreign colonial powers, these interactions influenced some Asafo companies' adaptation of ship motifs in the expression of flags and posuban structures in towns like Anomabo and Elmina.

These groups began to depict ship iconography on flags from the latter part of the 19th century, conveying to rival groups the ability to carry any load and defeat any opposition.

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