It is quite easy to miss, however paying a little attention to the notes of the Cedi (Ghana’s currency notes), it will reveal a relatively little icon beneath the image of the Big Six of the face of the note. Have you ever wondered what the icon stood for? What were the reasons for the specific parts of the logo? How representative is the logo of the values Ghana identifies with? In this article, you’ll find the answers to all the questions you have about Ghana’s Coat of Arms.
What is a Coat of Arms?
The Coat of Arms comes off like a logo of each country, similar to the way companies and institutions embody whatever they seek to represent or whatever values they identify with. It accompanies the ghanaian flag as the main symbols of the country’s identity. These usually small artistic works find themselves on letterheads, official documents and sometimes are worn on individuals as badges to show membership or allegiance as well as to authenticate documents and brand the institution or individual.
Heraldry is the system by which Coat of Arms and other armorial bearings are devised, described, and regulated. It boils down to the point of showing people who you are.
This practice started in England around the year 1100, when knights began to wear helmets that covered their entire face and couldn’t be recognized. This became a problem and so these knights began to paint different combinations of colours, shapes, and animals that they called their ‘arms’ on their shields and banners so that they would be recognized. This became a normal practice and soon all countries after being established designed and gazetted their coat of arms.
History of Ghana’s Coat of Arms
Ghana’s Coat of Arms was gazette and adopted on 4th March 1957 – barely 2 days to its Independence Day Celebrations. It had been commissioned in 1956 by the then colonial British Government to a graphic designer (Mr. Amon Kotei) who was working with the then government. Hitherto, Ghana which was known as Gold Coast and had been administratively ruled by the British colonial government used another ‘coat of arms’ or symbols which had the pictures of an elephant and a palm tree.
That ‘Coat of Arms’ or symbol was used for all the West African British colonies which were, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. This commission most likely was issued after July 1956 when a deciding election brought it to the fore that the British would grant Gold Coast independence.
Mr. Nii Amon Kotei, the man behind the design
Mr. Nii Amon Kotei was born on 24th May 1915 in La, near Accra, and was a trained surveyor and artist. He received a scholarship to study in the famous Achimota School and later had another scholarship to study art at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts from 1949 to 1952. He had been working for the British colonial government and was even enlisted to aid in World War II, working with the Cartographic Division of the Army.
He designed maps and plans that were used by soldiers on the war front. He later taught at his Alma Mata – the Achimota School. On 7th March 1997, he was awarded a Presidential medal by the former President, Jerry John Rawlings, and died on 17th October 2011 at the age of 96.
“I was instructed to divide the shield into four parts, and use the elephant’s skin as the symbol of chieftaincy, the Castle as the Seat of Government and the mineral wealth of the country and our fertile land as motifs for the design” Mr. Kotei had said in one interview. He was given a collection of crests and Coat of Arms of different countries around the world to guide him. In about a month, he had completed his draft, which was subsequently sent to the Queen’s College of Heraldry in the UK for approval.
When it returned, certain small changes had been made – the Star which was suspending had been pushed down the shield; a miniature scroll was put around the legs of the eagles with the colours red, gold and green; the scroll which had the motto ‘Freedom and Justice’ which he designed folded was opened up and allowed to fly; they also added the British lion to the design.
Finally, the Coat of Arms was sent to the then cabinet for approval. Word was then sent from the cabinet to Mr. Kotei to remove the lion and when he did, he and sent it back to parliament, they decided to keep the lion. The Coat of Arms was then gazetted on the 4th March 1957 and has been in use since then.
Meaning of Ghana’s Coat of Arms
The Coat of Arms that Ghana uses has certain specific meanings. There is a shield that is borne by two golden eagles and their position signifies that the nation is in safe and strong hands and is being watched with keen eyes. The golden eagles also have the order of Star of Ghana (highest award given by Ghana) with a black star ribbon hanging from their necks.
The Shield has a blue background and is divided into four quarters by a green St. George’s cross rimmed with gold and in its centre exists a golden lion alluding to the connection and relationship between Ghana and Great Britain (Commonwealth). On the top left quarter is the image of a traditional sword and a linguist’s staff and this represents the power of the traditional authorities.
The top right quarter is an image of the Christianborg Castle facing the Gulf of Guinea which was once the Seat of Government. The bottom left quadrant has the image of a cocoa tree which embodies the agricultural wealth of Ghana and the bottom right quadrant has the image of a mine shaft representing the mineral wealth of the country.
On top of the shield is a five-pointed black star with gold-rimmed edges standing on a wreath of red, gold, and green colours and these represent the lodestar of African Freedom. Beneath the shield, is a scroll with the motto: “Freedom and Justice” with grass on each side of the shield. This is the truth about Ghana’s Coat of Arms.
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