An Elmina / Dutch Asafo Flag

Flag of Asafo company No. 10, imitating the Dutch red/white/blue flag. Flag of Asafo company No. 10, imitating the Dutch red/white/blue flag.

The West African country of Ghana is known for the production of banners and flags decorated with appliqué. These items are often associated with the Fante people, and in particular with the Asafo, the military companies in the western coastal region of the country.

Elmina is a town along the southern coast of Ghana. It was one of the first European settlements in West Africa, following the arrival of the Portuguese in the late fifteenth century. Over the next few centuries numerous European groups (British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Prussians) all vied for commercial and trading opportunities in the region. Sometimes these struggles led to violence and the use of local Asafo in the various fights and battles that ensued. In 1724, for example, the Dutch, with the aid of various Elmina Asafo, removed the Prussians from nearby Fort Gross Friedrichsburg, a Prussian trading centre. Shortly afterwards, the Dutch helped to re-organise the Elmina Asafo by dividing the town into various districts or wards (each with its own number) and in each ward they established an Asafo group. These Asafo groups have influenced Elmina social and political life ever since.

Each of the Elmina Asafo had its own banner and flag and given the historical context it is not surprising that some groups also included obviously Dutch forms. The flag illustrated here, for example, uses a Dutch flag (red, white and blue horizontal stripes) as its base. It was used by Asafo company No. 10 Akrampafo (the name of the Elmina ward) and across the white central strip there is the embroidered text Vrijburgers (Dutch for 'free citizens') worked in a white, cotton thread. The No. 10 Akrampafo company was established in the nineteenth century and consisted of free, mulatto citizens (vrijburgers), who often worked in the lower ranks of the local Dutch administration.


  • FEINBERG, Harvey M. (1989), Africans and Europeans in West Africa: Elminans and Dutchmen on the Gold Coast During the Eighteenth Century, Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • MEER, Dirk van der (1990). De Goudkust na de slavenhandel: Plannen om de Nederlandse Bezittingen ter kuste van Guinea rendabel te maken, Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht.

See also the TRC Needles entry on Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 27th May 2016)


Last modified on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 18:43