Illustrate a Proverb or Verse Inspired by the Fante Asafo Flags of Ghana

A flag inspired by the Fante Asafo Flags of Ghana, illustrating the Irish proverb, "You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind."

For all of us procrastinators…. a flag inspired by the Fante Asafo Flags of Ghana, illustrating the Irish proverb, “You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.”

Seeing a variety of Fante Asafo Flags from Ghana will inspire your students with ideas for this project. Students in grades 5 and up will enjoy creating their own personal flag to illustrate a proverb or verse that’s meaningful to them. Kids love the tactile experience of working with felt and embroidery floss as they use graphic symbols to tell a story, convey a concept or idea, or give visual expression to a family motto or favorite Bible verse.

Fante Asafo Flags have been made by the Fante people of Ghana (on the west coast of Africa) since the 17th century. These flags represent the military companies, or asafo, of different areas or communities. Each asafo has its own unique flag, illustrated with a proverb, motto, or historical event. From 1896 (when Ghana was conquered by the British) through 1957 (when Ghana regained its independence), these flags included a version of the British Union flag in one corner. Fante Asafo Flags are are still being made in Ghana today.

You’ll need:

  • a list of proverbs or verses for students to choose from (or students may research their own on the internet)
  • felt – 12″x18″ pieces as well as a variety of smaller pieces
  • fabric scraps & Fray Check (optional)
  • 12″x18″ white construction (or drawing) paper
  • colored pencils
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing needles, plastic or metal (Blunt tips with large eyes are best for younger students, but a sharper embroidery needle will be easier to sew with once students are able to handle that.)
  • embroidery floss in a variety of colors

Directions:

  1. Choose a proverb or verse that’s meaningful to you. (Teacher can provide a list to choose from, or have students research on their own and bring in their favorites.)
  2. Convert the key words into simple symbols and shapes to represent the main idea.
  3. Using the symbols you chose, sketch some ideas for illustrating your proverb or verse on a piece of copy paper.
  4. When you have a design that you like, draw a full size (color) sketch on the 12×18 paper.  Remember to keep your shapes and symbols simple enough to be cut out of felt!
  5. Cut out the symbols you drew on the full-size paper and trace around them onto scraps of felt using a soft (#2) pencil.
  6. Carefully cut out your felt shapes/symbols. The great thing about felt is that the edges won’t fray, so you won’t need to hem them! Fabric scraps can add variety and interest to your flag, but you’ll have to take the extra step of applying Fray Check to each of the cut edges to prevent them from fraying!)
  7. Choose a piece of 12×18 felt in a color that will work well with your design.
  8. Lay your felt and fabric shapes/symbols on your flag and pin each one in place with two straight pins to keep them from shifting as you sew.
  9. Use a blanket stitch  to applique your felt or fabric shapes/symbols onto your flag. The blanket stitch will keep the edges from turning up and will give your applique a more “finished” look.
  10. Add any other details you want in your design using a running stitchback stitch, or chain stitch.
  11. Use scissors to clip into the top, bottom, and one of the side edges to create some “fringe”.
  12. Tack a couple of thin strips of felt to the uncut edge for ties.
  13. Optional: For a more authentic looking flag, try mounting your finished flag on a larger piece of white felt (with a 1-1/2″ border all around), then cut long fringe into the white felt. (You can also use 12×18 white felt and 9×12 colored felt if you’re planning ahead for this.) Take another look at some traditional Fante Afaso Flags and you’ll see what I mean. This is an extra step and some younger students may lose patience with stitching at this point, so it’s also fine to just keep it simple!

Do you have a favorite proverb or verse that might be fun to illustrate using shapes and symbols?

 

 

 

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