Posts Tagged ‘flags’

Twice this week I have come off the subway at Dundas station, and twice I have come to the surface to the sound of protest chants.

The first time it was a Free Tibet march as it proceeded up Yonge street.

a police man, with back tothe camera, stands in the middle of the street to block traffic as a Free Tibet march passes by on Yonge Street, protesters with flags and signs,

below: “Don’t forget Mr. Lingsta Tseten Dorjee, activist for non-violence.  It’s been 5 years since we lost Lingsta Tseten Dorjee”.   The banner then goes on to list Dorjee’s five demands including the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

a group of young men marching in a protest, Free tibet. carrying a banner with a lot of words in both Tibetan and English, one is wrapped in a Tibetan flag, some are wearing free tibet hats,

below: More protesters with signs and placards. “Free Shokjang now”.  Shokjang is the pen name of a Tibetan blogger who was detained by the Chinese authorities in March of 2015.

people carrying protest signs, free Shokjang now, release the panchen lama

protesters walk up Yonge Street with Tibetan flag and signs, one man has a megaphone

This afternoon, it was blue flags that I saw.  They are the flags of East Turkistan, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.  On a map you’ll find it as Xinjiang in the most westerly part of China, right next the the “stans” that became independent after the break up of the USSR (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, etc).   The name says autonomous but there is no self-rule or self government for the Uyghurs. 

For a brief time in 1949 it was an independent country but it was invaded by communist China that same year.   Historically, East Turkistan is part of central Asia.  The people are not Chinese but are more closely related to the Turks.  The Uyghurs are the indigenous group of East Turkestan.

below: “Stop forced abortion, Freedom for East Turkistan”

women holding the blue and white flag of East Turkestan, also a sign that says stopped forced abortion in East Turkistan, wearing head scarves

below: “Islamic scholar Mohammed Salih killed in Chinese concentration camps.  We want justice.” Muhammad Salih Hajim, 82, died in custody back in January, about 40 days after he, his daughter and other relatives were detained in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province.    They were held without charges being laid.   He was the first to translate the Quran into Uyghur.

a black man with a suitcase has stopped to talk to people protesting for a free East Turkistan, he is pointing to one of the signs and a man is explaining something to him

at a protest for free East Turkestan, protesters hold a banner that says China, Stop Massacre of Uyghars

Also today, and just around the corner… A few minutes later I ran across another protest.  This one was at the corner of Gould and Victoria streets, at Ryerson University.   It was a quiet, civilized affair – more like a dance than a protest.

below: Both sides of the right to abortion debate were present.

people protest for and against the right to have an abortion.

below:   The anti-abortion sign would be turned, the ‘file not found’ sign would be moved in front of it, repeat every couple of minutes.

protesters at a right to abortion protest, anti and pro sides, both with a large sign.

below: It seemed to be a debate or a dialogue rather than a protest even though the people involved might disagree.   For such an emotional and polarizing subject they were being respectful and engaging.  At least they have the right to protest…. and to counter protest.

protesters at a right to abortion protest, anti and pro sides, both with a large signs.


The St. Patricks Day parade in Toronto is usually just a small parade – certainly not as big and crazy in places like Boston or New York City.  Part of the problem might be the fact that the weather is usually cold.  This year the parade was 6 days before St. Patricks Day.  I’m not sure when it started or how it happened, but Toronto’s parade is on the Sunday before the actual day.    At least the sun was shining this year.  It may be a small parade but those who show up, either to watch or to participate, seem to have a good time.   A few photos from this year’s parade:


below: Police on horseback led the parade.  Here they are passing the TV cameras.

three toronto policemen on horseback at the front of a parade, as theypass by the press and a large microphone boom

below: Carlton, the Toronto Maple Leafs mascot, was there. Once upon a time, the Maple Leafs were known as the St. Pats and they wore green uniforms.

Carlton, the Maple Leafs hockey team mascot in a St. Pats jersey waiting for the parade to start, working the crowd.

below: 32 flags, one from each of Ireland’s 32 counties.  The GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association. 

A group of young people walking in the St. Patricks day parade, holding a banner and everyone is holding a flag from a Irish county. GAA Colour Party, 32 county flags.

below: Five Deloreans (cars) parked by the flags for the parade, before joining it at the end.  This is directly across Bloor Street from where the TV cameras were.   Deloreans were made near Belfast but for only a short time in the early 1980’s (1981- 1983).   About 9200 cars were produced.  The Delorean company went bankrupt in December 1982.

a man stands on a sidewalk, leaning on a barricade, lots of large Irish flags, a delorean car with its door open is across the street

below: Carrying Donegal County flags

three men carrying flags in the St. Patricks day parade, walk past a church, many people on the sidewalk, pavement, watching the parade go by

below: Doug Ford, now the leader of the Ontario PC party joined the parade.

Doug Ford, St. Patricks day parade, wakls towaards the people on the sidewalk to shake hands, politician, politics,

below: That’s quite the hair – he insisted that it was natural but I think it’s because of the green beer…..

two people sitting on the sidewalk watching the St. Patricks Day parade, a red head woman with long hair and a man with a curly bright green wig, both are smiling, both dressed for cold weather,

three teenagers selling candy at the parade, all dressed in green hats and other St. Patricks day stuff,

three kids sitting on little plastic stools watching a parade,

below: Maybe it’s true,  maybe everyone is Irish on St. Patricks day.

5 Asian women (Korean?) watching St. Patricks day parade, posing for the camera, all with shamrock green things aon their heads so only their faces stick out, the word Irish is written on each shamrock


below: What would St. Patricks day be without a leprechaun or two?

a man in a leprechauin costume walking in a parade.

a group of people sitting on the sidewalk as a parade passes by on Bloor Street in Toronto

I arrived at the protest in time to see a very large Palestinian flag being held up by some of the crowd.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

The recent decision by Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was the issue that sparked yesterday’s protest.  I missed the largest part of the gathering but there were still quite a few people in front of the court house on University Avenue – or more importantly, across the street from the American Embassy.

The flag was  rolled up from both ends.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

City TV dropped by as well.  Every time anyone came near the reporter, she stopped and waited for people to pass. Then she started over.    This was take 5 or 6 and once again, she stopped seconds after I took this picture.  I’ll assume that she eventually got her story.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

below: Two flags.  Palestine. Canada.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

below: “Trump Embassy in Jerusalem…. stupid idea”

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave.

below: The image of Recep Erdogan, President of Turkey, on his back and a Turkish flag in his hand.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave. - with Turkish flag as well as flag with image of Erdogan on it

below: A group has their picture taken with the Lebanese flag.

protest at Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, University Ave. A group is gathered around a man holding a Lebanese flag.

group of men in a line, kneeling, praying, outside,

person with rainbow face paint, rainbow rimmed sunglasses and a rainbow flag draped over her back

It’s Pride weekend here in Toronto with its many activities including the usual parades.  Yesterday was the Dyke March.

people walking in the dyke march, colourful clothes, floral shorts, polka dot top, sailor hat, flags, beads,

a woman is on another person's shoulders so she's above the crowd walking in the dyke march. She is holding a sign that says happy pride

a mother leans over her young daughter who is sitting in front of her on a bike, Small rainbow flag is on the handlebars

below: As in previous year, the motorcyclists led the parade.

dykes on bikes motorcyclists at the start of the parade, dyke march, at Yonge and Bloor

a small white dog with a little hat on its head, head resting on person's shoulder.

leather pants and belt, with a person's hand on bum (with black fingernails). harness on top with nothing under it, partially bare back

waiting for the dyke march to begin, two people by their motorcycle, one is in leather shorts and has angel wings made of rainbow coloured feathers

laughing women holding up a banner in support of trans people

people walking in the dyke march. one is holding a young girl who is wearing a pink dress, one is bare breasted

torso from the side of a person in a lacy black bra with a large tattoo on upper and lower arm. Upper arm tattoo is a woman's head with the words live deliciously written under it

a volunteer wearing a yellow tshirt stands in the middle of yonge street facing the dyke march parade that has stopped just up the street, people are lining the sidewalks to watch the march

a woman drummer, She is wearing a tshirt that says no a la homofobia. walking in dyke march

a muslim woman in a black head scarf takes pictures on her phone at a dyke march. a woman in a bikini top is clapping as she walks toward the camera

dykes on bikes stop in the parade for a photo op. one woman is topless with a bicycle painted on her chest.

a young woman in the dyke marching is holding up a sign that says Humber, we are proud

two women, in profile, watching the dyke march on yonge street, pink sunglasses

long haired woman holding rainbow flag, wearing sunglasses

a middel aged man in a tie dyed shirt with a big happy face in the middle of it, stands by a police car as he watches the dyke march

a group of people sittingo n the sidewalk on Yonge street as they watch the Dyke March. One woman is topless, two women are on cellphones

people on roller blades at the start of the dyke march. a woman holds a sign that says my pride includes the police

a woman in rainbow scarf, and police hat, holds a sign that says thanks first responders

women in a dyke march, one is holding a sign that says kittens against trump

three women walking together in the dyke march

a young man with a flower garland in his hair (paper flowers)

a couple - one is a purple wig and sunglasses and the other in a straw hat with sparkles glued to her face in the shape of a thin beard

Nathan Phillips Square, Saturday June 3

lookng down from the upper level, people at a protest rally at Nathan Phillips square, Toronto flag in the foreground

It was the Centre for Social Justice rally for diversity, strength, and solidarity.  It was an opportunity for people of all religions, races, and orientations to come together and renounce divisions and hate.

people at a protest rally, two people have a bandanas over their faces

below: “First they came for the Muslims, and I spoke out – because I am a Jew”

two men talking at a protest rally. one holds a sign that says First they came for the muslims and I spoke up because i'm a Jew

below: “Freedom of speech is not freedom to hate”

a protest sign in the shape and design of a Canadian flag on the red stripes are words that say Freedom of Speech is not Freedom to hate

below: “Salaam aleikum – Peace be with you”

a woman in a priests collar on, holding a sign that says salaam aleikum peace be with you, being photographed and filmed by TV cameras

below: “Refugees welcome”

people walking in a protest, a large red and white banner in the background, a woman holding a sign that says refugees welcome with a photo of refugees on it

below: “We support our Muslim neighbours and friends.”

people at a protest rally, one is holding a sign that says We support our Muslim neighbours and friends

below: “Toronto against Fascism”

a group of people with red and black bandanas over their faces, holding a banner that says Toronto agaist fascism

a woman with a megaphone at a protest rally, with a red and white banner behind her

legs and feet of girls in frilly green tutus as they dance in a parade

St. Patricks Day Parade, 19 March 2017

bagpipe player wearing a green hat for St. Patricks day

Watching floats, bands, banners, flags, leprechauns, bagpipes, drums, dancers, hurlers, soccer players, dragons, shamrocks, leprechauns, crazy hats, green hats, green everything, but most of all, people.

woman holding a metal flag pole, she's wearing big shamrock shaped glasses

feet and legs of two girls dancing on a float in a parade

a woman in a green cowboy hat with a green fringe, a green shamrock sticker on her cheek and wearing a green, orange and white scarf

a retired fireman with a green tam, moustanche and a big green bowtie

st. patricks day parade, man wearing a costume that makes it look like a large leprechaun is grabbing him around the knees

a man holds one end of a white banner that says County Kildare, St. Patricks Day parade

boys running a parade. one is wearing an orange body suit that also covers his face, also green tshirt and white shorts and green bowler.

a flute player in a blue uniform plays and walks in a parade. Other musicians in the background

two women with little green hats perched on their heads watch the St. Patricks Day parade

Ramses shriners band marches and plays in the St. Patrick Day parade. Red trousers, black jackets, large green shamrocks decorating their drums

a man playing the bagpipes in a St. Patricks day parade. he's wearing an oversized green and white striped hat with a band of shamrocks on it. Also wearing a big green bowtie

a middle aged woman in a fireman's jacket sits on a float in a parade (firetruck?) whe is holding a small teddy bear with a green sweater and a young girl is with her

a man is walking a dog in a parade. the dog is wearing a grewen hat for St. Patricks day

a group of adults and youth from Scouts Canada walk in the St. Patricks day parade, carrying lots of Canadian flags

a girl wearing green sunglasses and a scout uniform

a man stands on a sidewalk along with other people. he is dressed a costume that is a green beer bottle, his head is the neck of the bottle

adults and kids sitting on the sidewalk watch drummers go past in a parade. girl with big green bowtie and boy with long green tie and green bowler hat

three boys among a crowd of onlookers at a parade. The boy in the middle is wearing green and dancing as he watches

five kids sitting on a float in the St. Patricks day parade

liuna union members walk in the St Patricks day parade in Toronto

a young girl with a liuna union jacket on walks in a parade. she is wearing beer bottle shaped glasses

St. Patrick in the parade, talking to spectators on the sidewalk

a woman with a big smile and wearing purple gloves is holding up a white banner in a parade

a father and daughter have seats on the sidewalk as they watch a parade go by

two old yellow police cars in the St. Patricks day parade

chinese dragon, with two people inside it working it, walking down the street in a parade with spectators standing on the sidewalk

people standing and sitting on a small outdoor patio, on the sidewalk, watching the St. Patricks day parade go past. The bar is the Smiling Cow.

an older man in green Irish tophat and green coat and green bowtie

a man is dressed in an elvis costume, he's silver Elvis - skin all with silver makeup, holding a guitar

two boys wearing hats and oversized green ties watch a band march past in the St. Patricks day parade, bag piper in the very foreground.

a man and his two kids watch a parade. They are wearing big green and white hats

a woman cheers as she watches a parade from the sidewalk. Her partner is standing beside her

from the back, not much of his face is visible, a man wearing a green wig and a green tam with a pom pom on top

Kathleen Wynne, premier of Ontario, talks to a policeman and another man outside, before the start of a parade


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.


  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.


  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.