Every Fante town such as Anomabu has several, usually seven, asafo or warrior organizations that, although no longer functioning as military units, take part in all the major community celebrations, have their own ritual calendar and ceremonial obligations, and serve a number of important social and political functions (e.g., the head officer of each company sits on the town’s traditional council as a representative of his organization’s concerns).
Every Fante inherits membership in one of these companies through his or her father, although males tend to be more active in these organizations than do females. In Anomabu, which supports seven asafo companies, at least one of them (Kyirem Company No. 6) has an active female auxiliary or adzewa organization. While many citizens of Anomabu are actively engaged with their associated martial organization, some choose not to explore this inherited relationship. Any member of these
martial organizations can participate in their group’s music making if they so wish, and the majority of members do perform as singers. The most talented members of the group take on the musically more demanding roles of drummers and cantors. These groups each have their own songs and styles of drumming.
Two visually distinctive facets of Fante asafo organizations are their shrines and their appliquéd flags. Each asafo company has a meeting place–a post–in town that has as its centerpiece a shrine. While some of these asafo shrines in Anomabu are quite modest–one company (No. 5) has a small tree serving as its shrine–others have erected large and symbolically rich cement structures such
as the one pictured on this page (this is the shrine for the Kyirem Company No. 6 of Anomabu). The shrines for the Anomabu asafo companies nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 are displayed on this page.
Asafo flags (sing., frankaa) are important icons of a company’s identity. A flag is commissioned by a member of a company when he is promoted to the rank of captain. He relates to a craftsman a proverb or a dream, which is then interpreted by the flag maker into a scene that is appliquéd onto a solid-colored
background. The scene is replicated in mirror image on the backside of the flag. Images of three flags belonging to Asafo Co. No. 6 are seen on this page. Although a new flag becomes the property of the man’s company, it serves as an enduring symbol of his personal status within the organization. It, along with other company
flags, is displayed around the company’s post on ceremonial occasions. Each company will also have specially trained flag dancers, called frankakitsanyi, who will perform at the head of the company when it is part of a procession or other public event. Part of the presentation of a flag to important guests present at an event includes an explanation of the flag’s meaning by the asafo company’s linguist.
Collectively, the music, shrine, and flags of an asafo company are art forms in the service of a martial organization. They dramatically project to the public the collective pride a company’s members feel in their organization.