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Banal Symbols of the New Nation-State

  • Harcourt Fuller
Chapter
Part of the African Histories and Modernities book series (AHAM)

Abstract

One common feature of all independent nation-states—both Western and non-Western—is that they possess unique national symbols such as a national flag, a national anthem, a coat of arms, and other banal insignia and emblems to distinguish them from other nation-states. For the newly independent countries that want to emerge from international obscurity, the creation of unique symbols of nationhood is even more pressing. Cerulo notes, “Since the inception of nations, national leaders have embraced and adopted national flags and anthems, using them to create bonds, motivate patriotic action, honor the efforts of citizens, and legitimate formal authority.”1 As Ghana prepared to join the dysfunctional family of nations-states in the late 1950s, Kwame Nkrumah utilized the time-tested symbols of nationhood to announce its entry onto the world stage. The Convention People’s Party cabinet proposed, commissioned, and supervised the design and selection of official symbols for the party and the nation. These included everything from the party and national flags, anthem, pledge of allegiance, coat of arms, crest, public seal, National Assembly speaker’s chair and desk, to police officers’ badges and insignia.

Keywords

National Identity Gold Coast Asante Nation Cocoa Tree Golden Eagle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Karen A. Cerulo, “Symbols and the World System: National Anthems and Flags,” Sociological Forum 8, no. 2 (June 1993): 244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    On his first voyage to the United States from Britain, Nkrumah sailed on a shipping vessel called the Cunard White Star Line. See Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957), 28.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    For more on the history of the UGCC, including Nkrumah’s role in and split from the organization, see Dennis Austin, “The Working Committee of the United Gold Coast Convention,” The Journal of African History 2, no. 2 (1961): 273–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    Adolph H. Agbo, Values of Adinkra Symbols (Kumasi, Ghana: Ebony Designs and Publications, 1999), 12.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    See, for example, Joseph. B. Danquah, Friendship and Empire (London: Fabian Publications, 1949); Gold Coast: Akan Laws and Customs and the Akim Abuakwa Constitution (London: Routledge, 1928); Historic Speeches and Writings on Ghana, compiled by H. K. Akyeampong (Accra: G. Boakie Publishing Company, 1966); Journey to Independence and After: J. B. Danquah’s Letters, 1947–1965, compiled by H. K. Akyeampong (Accra: Waterville Publishing House, 1970); The Akan Doctrine of God: A Fragmentation of Gold Coast Ethics and Religion (London: Lutterworth Press, 1944)Google Scholar
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  7. 11.
    Roger S. Gocking, The History of Ghana (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 134.Google Scholar
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    E. Ablade Glover, Linguist Staff Symbolism, 2nd ed. (Kumasi, Ghana: Design Press, University of Science and Technology, February, 1992).Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    See Gareth Austin, “Capitalists and Chiefs in the Cocoa Hold-Ups in South Asante, 1927–1938,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 21, no. 1 (1988): 63–95; and “The Emergence of Capitalist Relations in South Asante Cocoa-Farming, c. 1916–33,” Journal of African History 28, no. 2 (1987): 259–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 29.
    The British used the same flag design for its other possessions and colonies in West Africa, but used a different abbreviation for each colony. For example, the Gambia was designated by a “G,” Lagos Colony with an “L,” and Sierra Leone with a “S.L.” See H. Gresham Carr, Flags of the World, rev. ed. (London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1961).Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Jack Child, “The Politics and Semiotics of the Smallest Icons of Popular Culture: Latin American Postage Stamps,” Latin American Research Review 40, no. 1 (February 2005): 119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Manuel Barradas, Tractatus Tres Historico-Geographici (1634): A Seventeenth Century Historical and Geographical Account of Tigray, Ethiopia, trans. Richard Pankhurst (Harrassowitz, 1996), 59, 70, 71; and “Country Profile: Ethiopia,” Library of Congress, April 2005, accessed March 26, 2014, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Ethiopia.pdf.Google Scholar
  13. 35.
    The symbolism of the national flag has also been used to build national identity by other Third Word nationalist movements. For example, Laotian nationalists designed a tricolored flag in 1945 (with two red stripes on either side and a blue one in the middle), which symbolized the emergence of the new nation-state born in sacrifice yet blessed with nature’s bounty. The red was a universal color symbolizing that the people fought and bled for their independence. Blue stood for the fertility of the Lao land, while an image of a white full moon in the middle of the blue stripe symbolized purity. See Oliver Tappe, “A New Banknote in the People’s Republic: The Iconography of the Kip and Ideological Transformations in Laos, 1957–2006.” Internationales Asienforum 38, nos. 1–2 (2007): 105.Google Scholar
  14. 36.
    See Clem McCartney and Lucy Bryson, Clashing Symbols: A Report on the Use of Flags, Anthems and Other National Symbols in Northern Ireland (Belfast: The Institute for Irish Studies for The Community Relations Council, 1994).Google Scholar
  15. For other discussions on the relationship between national flags and the politics of nationalism in the developing world, see Igor Cusack, “African National Anthems: ‘Beat the Drums, the Red Lion has Roared,’” Journal of African Cultural Studies 17, no. 2 (December 2005): 235–251; Child, “The Politics and Semiotics of the Smallest Icons of Popular Culture,” 108–137; National Anthems, www.national-anthems.net/ and www.national-anthems.org/history.htm; and David, National Anthems www.david.national-anthems.net/index.html.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 40.
    Jean M. Allman, The Quills of the Porcupine: Ashanti Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 16.Google Scholar
  17. 41.
    For more information about the nature of porcupines, see Sybil P. Parker, ed., Grzimek’s Encyclopedia of Mammals (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990), 5.Google Scholar
  18. 44.
    Dzenkle Dzewu, A Challenge to Kwame Nkrumah (Accra: July 1957).Google Scholar
  19. 51.
    http://www.nationalanthems.us/cgi-bi n/for um/ YaBB.pl?num=1153445087 (accessed September 12, 2006). See also Paul Nettl, National Anthems, 2nd ed., trans. Alexander Gode (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1967).Google Scholar

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