Fante Asafo Flags

March 5th, 2011 § 0 comments

A friend recently forwarded me a link to Fante Asafo flags. These are flags made by military “companies” in Ghana since at least the 17th century and represented different areas and communities. They usually had their own “shrines” as well where people would gather. The companies were represented by names, numbers and symbols, all of which could be shown on the flags they would make. Sometimes they would illustrate proverbs or motto’s. After the British conquest of 1896, some of the flags started to incorporate Union flags, or at least versions of it. Anyway, yesterday I saw a programme called “Hidden Treasures of African Art” presented by Griff Rhys Jones. It’s pretty good, and he talks (amongst other things) about Fante Asafo flags, and the brilliantly personalised coffins of Ghana. He also ruminates on “authentic” african art. There is a roaring trade in “fake” flags and masks etc, I couldn’t care less if they are real or fake (here’s an article about fake fante flags), but these flags are wonderful things. It did make me think a bit about inspiration though. Sometimes, you find something interesting and you don’t want anyone else to know. I felt this way when seeing this programme, I have known about the coffins for a wee while and was disappointed when I first saw them in the programme. Then I thought, fuck it – I am not the creator here, how on earth can I feel anything about the greater exposure of another’s art? I think there are some interesting questions to be asked about the nature of inspirations – a friend asked me recently about this blog and said “aren’t you worried about giving away your inspirations?” – the answer is, no. I only put up what I want, and regardless, anything I produce will always be a recycling of the world around me, but put through the filter of my mind. No one else would come to exactly the same conclusions and why should artists exist in a mysterious, private coded world? Anyway, I’m rambling, here’s a link to the programme, and some images of the flags. (photos copyright Tim Hamill, also see Adire African Textiles)

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