Posts Tagged ‘bull’

You’ve probably never heard the word asafo before.  You probably have no idea what it means.

Until last week I didn’t know the word existed either.

I went to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit.  There were 100 excellent pictures of insects, animals, marine life, the sort of thing you’d expect.  There was no photography allowed in that exhibit so I have no photos of the images on display.  You’ll have to take my word for it that I was there.

I can appreciate the skill and patience that it takes to capture rabbits in the snow or a school of fish in a certain light underwater but those kind of pictures don’t excite me.   That’s not to diminish the work of the photographers, it was all very high caliber both technically and visually.    What I think I’m trying to say is that I left the exhibit wanting more, something more from my visit to the ROM.

Luckily I didn’t have to look far.  In the next room was Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana.

museum exhibit of asafo flags from Ghana, colourful flags of militia groups in yellows, reds and black. Many are hanging in display cases.

Colour, lots of colour.  And a subject that I knew nothing about, asafo flags.  I wasn’t even sure what part of Africa Ghana is in (It’s on the south coast of Western Africa between Togo and the Ivory Coast as it turns out.).

The flags are hand made with an assortment of different motifs.  The British Jack in the upper left corner is a very common feature.  That’s a clue.  Yes, Ghana was a British colony.   Reading the history of Ghana is like reading the colonial history of large parts of Africa.  The Portuguese built a fortress at Elmina in 1482.    Interest in the region was piqued by the presence of gold, hence the name Gold Coast.   By the early 17th century the first African state,  Akwamu, controlled an extensive part of the coast.  They were displaced by the Ashanti who were very involved in the slave trade, especially in trading slaves for weapons.   When European countries outlawed trading in slaves in the early 1800’s,  Ashanti power suffers.   Some tussles ensue, a few battles, some back and forth, and by 1902 what was Ashanti becomes is a British colony.    It remained a colony until 1957.

close up of a flag, hand made, British Jack in the top left corner, a man walks in front of a church in the center, a black bear in the top right.

I’m not going to pretend to know or understand African history.  I’m only trying to give some context to the flags.    First, jump back to my mention of Elmina and the Portuguese. When the Portuguese arrived in this area in the 15th century, it was the Fante (or Fanti) people that they encountered.  Both the Fante and the Ashanti belong to the Akan people.  The Fante prevented them from venturing inland and leased properties for Portuguese trading missions. But when the Portuguese objected to Fante rules and regulations the Fante expelled them.  Soon after, the Dutch arrived.  The Fante served as middlemen in the commerce between the interior and Dutch traders on the coast.

Around 1724 the Dutch either established or made important a number of militia groups of local Fante.  These are the Asafo companies.  Historically, Asafo companies were in charge of the safety and protection of the local community.   At the height of the slave trade they protected individuals and communities.   They exerted power, exercise political influence and maintain codes of conduct within Fante communities. Each company has a flag and that flag has many roles.   They represent proverbs and depict narratives of pride and wisdom.  They accompany oral history and provide a means to preserve customs and traditions.

below:

  1. top flag, by Kweku Kakanu, Saltpond Workshop. “Only a brave man goes under a large tree” because only large animals go under large trees. Made sometime between 1950 and 1957.
  2. bottom flag, artist unknown, Kromantse Workshop. “Only tie a bull to a large tree”. Both the animal and the tree are acknowledged to be strong and mighty.  Made around 1980.  It has a Ghanese flag in the top left corner.

 

two flags displayed on a black background, with three femail mannequins dressed in traditional Ghanese costume.

below:

  1. top flag, by Kweku Kakanu, Saltpond Workshop. A crocodile dominates and controls a pond of fish. Made around 1940.  The prey can not escape.
  2. bottom flag, by Kwesi Budu, Saltpond Workshop. The fish cann’t escape the net of the fishermen just like enemies will not be able to escape when confronted by the company.  Made around 1950.

two flags displayed on a black background, with two male mannequins dressed in military Ghanese costume.

Fante asafo flags from Ghana, two on display in a museum, chickens and roosters,

Fante asafo flags from Ghana, two on display in a museum, griffons

two mannequins in military uniforms as part of a museum exhibit at ROM

 

 

Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costumes,
ROM, 4th floor,
until March 2017.

 

 

 

Graffiti and/or street art on the north side of the railway underpass on Bloor St. West between Dundas West and Perth Avenue.  It is also by the Bloor GO station and where the West Toronto Railpath crosses Bloor Street.

Painted April 17, 18 and 19, 2015 by 26 artists led by Cruz1

looking along a sidewalk that runs under a railway bridge.  Along the right hand side are a series of graffiti paintings.

street art painting under a railway bridge - big multicoloured lips, partially open revealing big white teeth

street art - brightly coloured, fluorescent like, giant squid, a steet art painting signed by Nick Sweetman

street art painting of an elephant standing upright, only upper part shown, wearing a plaid jacket, carrying a cane over his shoulder, a small hat on his head, and holding a flower in his trunk.   A green train runs across the top of the painting.   signed by blackburn

Street art painting of many cans of spray paint, some with faces on them.

Street art under a railway overpass as seen from on top of the bridge.  A painting of a bumblebee flying towards a bright yellow and orange flower as well as a painting that is done is blues can be seen.

street art painting under a railway bridge - purple whale

street art painting under a railway bridge - astronaut's helmet

Man walking along a sidewalk towards a railway bridge.  One side of the underpass has been painted with street art pictures.

street art painting under a railway bridge - a large woman's face, she is breathing on a little man who is standing on her outstretched hand.

street art painting under a railway bridge - a young man and a young woman on skateboards

street art painting under a railway bridge - an ugly blue creature with nasty look on his face, yellow stuff oozing from the corner of his mouth

woman walking along a sidewalk under a railway bridge.  There is a graffiti picture of two people skateboarding beside her.

street art painting under a railway bridge - a pink, maroon and red bullblue street art painting of a wrecked sailing ship partially submerged as she sinks stern first

street art painting under a railway bridge - a mn with orange skin, large head and twisted pipes for arms.  A bis S is coming out of the top of his head

east side of mural under the railway bridge - series of street art paintings by different artists, playground behind, street scene beyond.

street art painting in geometrics, especially trianges and angled lines.

street art painting under a railway bridge - a long yellow snake curld up amongst purple and red swirls

street art painting under a railway bridge - multicolored skulls

street art painting under a railway bridge - a white hand with finger pointing to the left

This was spudbomb was added a few days later.

street art under a railway underpass - tag spud and stencil that says spudbomb
street art under a railway underpass - pink lips and a blue bomb with a smiling face on it  by spud

street art under a railway underpass - yellow stars, 3 D blocks and some pink flowers

 This was another StreetARToronto project.