The origin of the Asafo flag is European but its style remains purely Ghanaian. They were commissioned by military organisations known as asafo, or 'companies' whose primary role was to exert power, exercise political influence and maintain codes of conduct within Fante communities. The Asafo began to adopt the tradition of military flags after the arrival of European traders and colonial influences appear in many of them. The flags on show at the Mingei International Museum were provided by Duncan Clarke, who explains their appeal: ‘the flags were made from flimsy imported cloth and the effect of being hung outside for days at a time in all weathers means that older pieces are beautifully battered with numerous marks, holes and patches. One can think of this damage as “battle scars” testifying to their authenticity.’ These colourful flags from the West African country of Ghana date back to the late 19th and 20th centuries and are often fully reversible, featuring graphic imagery and needle turned appliqued designs. Verbal proverbs are given imaginative visual form on the flags, in which messages and customs are remembered and oral traditions are preserved. Asafo flags are displayed at funerals, annual festivals and other ceremonial occasions, where they adorn central shrines and are paraded and waved through villages and towns. Intense rivalry among companies once led to violent confrontations, but today this is channeled into peaceful competitions.