Every summer in Southern Ghana the streets are filled with festive fabrics during the annual Akwambo Festival. Literally translating to ‘path-clearing’ this festival celebrates the local Asafo warrior groups weeding footpaths that guide people to local streams, rivers, farms and shrines that the locals then return to the following day as a chief requests protection from their ancestors for the year ahead. With their bodies often smeared in clay, members of the public then parade through the town dancing to live music, with twigs and branches striking colourful flags up into the air as a symbol of celebration.
Traditionally the role of the Asafo companies in Southern Ghana is to protect the state, but in today’s postcolonial world they now blend with the community much more, becoming an intrinsic part of Southern Ghana’s independent society. Like many political and military groups throughout history, flags and banners have come to form a part of the Asafo identity and it’s these flags that fill the towns during Akwambo festivities each year. Today, they typically depict pride, wisdom and defiance to enemies.
A collection of these vibrant and historical flags is now on show at a comprehensive exhibition in Canada, on at the Royal Ontario Museum until September this year. Featuring stunning handcrafted flags, brilliant costumes, artifacts and stirring videos, Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags of South Ghana brings life to the amazing stories behind the Asafo flags and the people who conceive and wave them to this day.
Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags of South Ghana, 3 September 2016 - 4 September 2017
Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C6