Baba Issaka (b. 1967, Ghana, Africa) began his apprenticeship at the age of ten with his father Baba Issah, a prominent flagmaker at the time. Baba Issaka became a master flagmaker ten years later. He currently lives in the Central Region of Ghana in the coastal town of Swedru where he continues to produce flags for festivals and prominent occasions.
History of Asafo Flags:
Asafo Flags have an interesting significance and history. They embody cultural meanings and narratives from the Fante people who live along the Central Region of Ghana. During the colonisation of Ghana in the 17th century, European cloth arrived at Ghana’s shores. The Fante adopted European-inspired military groups or ‘companies’ called ‘Asafo’ due to the lack of a standing army; the name deriving from ‘sa’ meaning war and ‘fo’ meaning people. This is why the Union Jack features in many of the flags, until Ghana’s independence in 1957.
The marking of a special occasion, such as an annual festival, ceremony or funeral, or the installation of a new ‘Asafo’ chief (Supi) are the main motivations for the creation of a new flag. Simple imagery that is always unique would either depict an historical event, identify the company with an animal, image of power or depict a confrontational proverb to threaten other rival companies. The earliest flags may have been painted or drawn on raffia cloth, though most have been made of appliquéd trade cloth.
Since the 1990s these flags have become highly collectible outside of Ghana. Today newly made flags are facing a decline as they are no longer used for war and only for peaceful festival displays. Asafo flags do still hold an important part of communal life in Fante villages among the Asafo groups.