St. Patricks Day Parade, 19 March 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costumes,
ROM, 4th floor,
until March 2017.
Nathan Phillips Square, Saturday 19 November
A cold wet day.
below: Stop the Fascists
below: Make America Love Again
below: We all share one atomosphere, one ocean, one earth
below: Demand accountability from elected officals – stand up for the disempowered.
below: We are the Storm and we will leave light in our wake.
below: “Not fit for president, wake up America!”
below: Nathan Phillips Square during the rally.
below: Canada rejects bigotry
below: Nastywoman hashtag in action
below: Can’t comb over sexism and bigotry
below: Trans Lives Matter and Love Trumps Hate
below: One giant step backwards
below: With butterflies, hearts and sparkles
below: Bersih demonstrators join the rally. This group is calling for the resignation of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak
below: Trump Election: Byproduct of Obama/Clinton Neoliberalism – Bolshevik Tendency
#trumprally | #lovetrumpshate | #nastywoman
Labour Day parade 2016
Monday, September 5th,
The parade started at Queen and University and moved westward to Dufferin Street.
According to the ‘Toronto Star’ newspaper, there were 25,000 people walking this year.
below: The parade ended at the Dufferin Gates of the Canadian National Exhibition. Labour Day weekend is also when the CNE Air Show is on and as a result, many of the planes taking part in the show also flew over the parade.
below: You know the parade is over when the street sweepers come around the corner.
As I’m sure you all know, the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio have just finished recently. Canadian athletes won a total of 22 medals, almost a record number for a summer Olympics (tied with the Atlanta games in 1996). A celebratory ‘homecoming’ parade was held today to honour some current, and some former, Canadian athletes who call Toronto home.
below: Lots of people of all ages and dressed in red, or red and white, lined the Danforth from East Lynn park to Woodbine for the start of the parade. There were lots of Canadian flags!
below: Also pre-parade, Arda Zakarian from CP24 interviewed the crowd waiting on the sidewalk on the shady side of the Danforth.
below: Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, made an appearance at the beginning of the parade. She didn’t walk in the parade, instead she met with the crowd who were waiting for the parade to begin.
below: The sound of bagpipes meant the start of the parade!
below: Riding in a vintage red and white pick-up truck were members of the women’s athletics team: Crystal Emmanuel, Nikkita Holder, Alicia Brown, Phylicia George, and Eseroghene (Ese) Omene
below: Women’s beach volleyball players, Kristina Valjas, and Jamie Broder, sit on either side of their coach John May.
below: There was a giant Canadian flag held aloft by a group of people.
below: Name that athlete.
below: Rose Cossar, rhythmic gymnastics (2012).
below: Penny Olesiak and Michelle Williams, both medal winning swimmers, rode in a red convertible. Here they are being interviewed as the parade moved slowly down Woodbine Ave.
below: Closer up, Penny and Michelle.
The parade continued down Woodbine Avenue to Queen Street East where it end at Kew Garden. I didn’t walk that far with them. Apparently there was a very good turnout – lots of people went to show their support and/or their appreciation including the mayor, John Tory.
below: And last, a few more crowd shots! More red, more flags and more signs.
The Trans Rally and March, first of the Pride parades was last night (Friday).
below: If you were driving on Yonge street last night, perhaps you got stuck in traffic. Northbound cars on Yonge were stopped to allow the parade to cross from Bloor to Yonge. The parade continued in the southbound lanes which gave the stuck drivers and passengers a front row seat.
Last year it rained for the Trans March and in previous years the turn out was low. Whether it is because trans issues have been in the news a lot lately, or because the trans community is more visible, or because of other reasons, there were more people walking than usual.
below: Dave holding ‘Pulse’ a memorial artwork in honour of those who died at the Pulse nightclub Orlando. The piece was crocheted by Dave and the Craft Action Collective.
#loveislove | #lovealwayswins
Rally and protest in front of the Ministry of Labour building on University Avenue.
April 15 was chosen as the day for rallies and protests across the country in support of a $15/hour minimum wage as well as other changes to labour laws. Changes such as equal pay for equal work and fair scheduling.
#15andfairness | #OntarioWeWant