by Nii Nortey Dowuona (alniinod) – 20th May, 2019
“…This is not the Ghana Coat of Arms…” pointing to one of the State’s service emblem, Amon Kotei lamented on how the state services have fragmented and in some cases deconstructed towards a distortion of the state emblem – the Coat of Arms, in an interview with Samuel Agyemang, Metro TV on “Ghana at 50 in retrospect – Role of National Coat of Arms” in March 2007.
Amon Kotei was the architect behind the design of the Ghana Coat of Arms. In 1956 as independence approached, the nationalist government found Amon Kotei competent to design one of the most important emblems of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, when it commenced on the creation of various new national identities for independent Ghana.
In a lamentation to his supposedly distorted emblems, Amon Kotei stated: “I am really shocked. If anybody will ever say that this sort of thing is the coat of arms, if I have the time, I would challenge that this is not my Coat of Arms. If this piece is allowed to remain in the country as the Coat of Arms, I say no and as long as I live, I will keep saying no”.
Some of the state’s service crests
Amon Kotei went to be with the Lord on 17th October 2011 without being able to make his challenge. Come to think of it, what was the basis of his lamentation and deep grief over a national commission that was influenced by other factors and governmental bodies and needed to be accepted and approved by a colonial master from whom the colonised sought freedom and independence? What is the big deal of modifying some features to suit other needs? Besides, some of the features were initially not planned to be included. On what basis or authority did Amon Kotei stand to denounce a state crest merely because it wasn’t his design? This is in no way to downplay the designer’s sentiments but to investigate why he could take a position to claim authority over a design and to fight for the authenticity of a design that was politically influenced and commissioned to do . I personally recall asking the artist (in 2005) whether a copy of the design of the coat of arms I saw in his house was the original and he replied that it was for the state and that the owners have the original. How then do you fight for something that wasn’t your?
Amon Kotei also mentioned that if institutions would want to use some features of the Coat of Arms, they should not add the inscription “Freedom and Justice” which seals and makes it look like the real coat of arms. Unlike other state identification symbols and elements like the Ghanaian Flag needed for independence, the national coat of arms was not a competition.
When Amon Kotei was assigned the challenge to design the Coat of Arms at the Government Printing Press where he worked as a graphic designer, the then young civil servant researched to his satisfaction all the symbols that were suggested to him by the government before he assigned them to the various columns of the shield.
Before the design was accepted, it had to pass two juries: the local cabinet in Ghana and the colonial masters – Great Britain. The design was sent to the Queen’s College of Heraldry in United Kingdom to be approved. When it was returned, some changes had been made to it. “In my design, the star was suspending but the College of Heraldry pushed it down to rest on the shield. In addition, they placed miniature scroll around the eagle leg with the colours red, gold and green”, Kotei said. He also noted that the end of the scroll bearing the motto “Freedom and Justice” was already flying but it was folded. “The British also added the British lion to the design”, he said. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the changes made the design look better.
Mr. Kotei recalled that after the final touches, the design was brought back to the Gold Coast with the following comment: “The College had the opportunity to view numerous crests but the one from Ghana came almost perfect.” Mr. Kotei said when the Coat-of Arm was sent to the Gold Coast Cabinet, it was brought back to him to remove the lion from it. According to him, the Prime Minister at that time-Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah asked him to remove the ‘British Lion’ that was placed solidly in the centre of the proposed crest suggesting that the Prime Minister might have been angered and probably considered the representation of the ‘British Lion’ as a form of neo-colonialism.
Later, another urgent instruction was communicated to him (Amon Kotei). This time, he was instructed to restore the ‘British Lion’. Perhaps, the British would not easily grant independence without the representation of the Lion which might signify the continuous supremacy of the former colonial master over the former Gold Coast Colony.
The Coat of Arm is used to identify state owned properties and it’s captured on state official documents as well. The Coat of Arms is also used officially in all government organisations, departments and even non-governmental organisations representing the country overseas. The emblem is therefore the seal of Ghana.
When Amon Kotei he had the opportunity and the challenge to design an emblem which was to represent Ghana had many possible symbols to use. The cabinet in charge of the design might have tried to influence the artist by their own individual interests; political, religious, cultural and even tribal state, likewise the colonial masters. However, he researched the meaning of the symbols proposed to him before applying them. Though he might have been influenced in a way to use a particular symbol, he considered each symbol critically and was sure it was relevant and beneficial to the state and not to an individual.
Finally Amon Kotei settled for and used eight elements including a text which is said to be the motto of Ghana – “Freedom and Justice”.
THE SYMBOLS USED IN THE COAT OF ARMS
- Two Eagles– facing each other and wearing black star medals. These Eagles are supporting a shield with their feet. Their other feet holds the banner on which is inscribed the motto of the country and they also have their wings opened in a flying position.
The choice of the Eagle was not random but personally considered by the artist. He considered them protectors of the shield rather than the British Lion in the middle of the shield. To the artist, the Eagle is significant and profound.
He chose the Eagle over all the other possible symbols or animals because to him, “Ghana was not an elephant as depicted on her crest when she was a colonial Gold Coast, but rather an eagle that must truly soar.” Amon Kotei explained.
Amon Kotei was inspired by Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey’s inspirational words, “…to soar like an eagle” which he had heard as a student of the Achimota School. Kotei felt that Aggrey’s admonition was equally relevant and applicable to young Ghana at independence.
- BLACK STARS: there are three five-pointed Black Stars in the emblem. The Biggest of them is located on top of the shield and it rests on a red, gold and green coloured wreath. This represents the lone star of African Freedom.
- BANNER ON WHICH IS INSCRIBED THE MOTTO: At the base of the shield is a banner which contains the caption of the Motto of Ghana. The caption reads: “FREEDOM AND JUSTICE.”
- THE SHIELDis divided into four quarters by a green St. George’s cross, rimmed with gold. Within each quarter the symbols are placed on a blue coloured background. The following are the symbols in the quarters:
- Crossed Linguist Staff and Ceremonial sword: it is positioned at the top left-hand quarter and represents the local administration.
- A heraldic castle on a heraldic sea: it is positioned at the top right-hand quarter and it represents the National Government.
- A Cocoa tree: It is positioned at the bottom left-hand quarter within the shield. This represents the Agricultural wealth of the country.
- A mine shaft: Positioned at the bottom right-hand quarter. It represents the mineral wealth of the country.
- A Gold Lion or the British Lion: it is positioned in the centreof the green St. George’s cross. It represents the continued link between Ghana and the Commonwealth.
The emblem is used to identify state owned properties and it is also used on state documents such as letterheads and the citizen passports.
The Coat of Arms emblem is used in all government organisations, authorities and non-governmental organisations representing
CRITICAL ANALYSES OF THE COAT OF ARMS
When the design of the Coat of Arms is critically analysed, one may notice that the composition is symmetrically balanced vertically in terms of position and weight when the emblem is divided into two equal halves vertically, thus from the apex of the Black Star down through to the British Lion to the text “and”.
Looking at the text which happens to be the motto of Ghana “FREEDOM AND JUSTICE”, it is noticeable that when the line of symmetry is drawn through the emblem, the line passes through the letter “N” which also divides the whole text into two equal halves in terms of the number of alphabets in each word. One half would read: “FREEDOM A…” while the other half excluding the alphabet “N” reads “…D JUSTICE.”
When the line of symmetry is drawn to divide the emblem into two halves, there is the same number of symbols on both sides. These include: an Eagle wearing a Black Star medal hanged on a ribbon with the red, gold and green national colours.
The Eagles are represented supporting a shield. This design is the same on the other side but repeated and reflected or reversed. The Black star on top of the shield, when divided into two equal halves, would have three tips each. The pointer at the top is half and is equal to that of the other side.
At the base of the shied, there is some sort of grass which is held by the banner on which the motto is written. When the same line of symmetry is drawn through the Coat of Arms, would have this grass on each side with the same sort of effect or design which has been repeated and reverted.
Though the symbols used inside the shield are totally different from each other, their placement falls within a balanced structure. Inside the shied, the symbols are placed in different shapes. At the top, the symbols are placed in square shapes while at the bottom, they are placed in a triangle-liked shapes. This appears on each side when the line of symmetry is drawn through the emblem. In addition, the space in which the emblem was placed was well utilised.
The emblem designed by Amon Kotei was indeed not just designed but carefully structured and organised.
- THE GHANAIAN TIMES, Tuesday, March 6, 2007; Page: 41
- Interview with Samuel Agyemang, Metro TV on “Ghana at 50 in retrospect – Role of National Coat of Arms” in March 2007