Asafo Appliqués

Asafo flag used by No. III Company, Anamaboe (early 20th century). Asafo flag used by No. III Company, Anamaboe (early 20th century). © Trustees of the British Museum, acc. no. Af1978,22.724.

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, military companies who live in the western coastal region of the country.

The word asafo derives from sa (‘war’) and fo (‘people’). Over the centuries the Fante have developed a complex system of Asafo, each with its own elaborate traditions that include banners and flags with figurative scenes. Within one Fante town, for example, there may be several Asafo groups, each with their own number, banners, flags and so forth. The tradition of making Asafo banners and flags among the Fante can be traced back to at least the mid-eighteenth century and may be older.

The flags were locally designed and produced. The designs used include geometric patterns (often checked patterns), figures of people, animals, birds, boats, plant forms, snakes, whales and so forth. From 1874 to 1957, Asafo flags also often included a form of the British Union Jack flag in one corner. These vanished after Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1957.

See also the RC Needles entry on Art, honour, and appliqué: Asafo flags from southern GhanaElmina/Dutch Asafo flag.


  • ADLER, Peter and Nicholas BARNARD (1992). Asafo!: African Flags of the Fante, London: Thames & Hudson.
  • PICTON, John and John MACK (1979). African Textiles, London: British Museum Publications Limited, p. 169. 

British Museum online catalogue (retrieved 8th June 2016).


Last modified on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 18:45