A few things that go together:
At the moment I’m on the look out for instances where people visually communicate where they’re from in bold and colourful ways.
I first got interested in the film The Warriors as part of a workshop I was running, around the topic of urban spaces and identity. It’s an amazing film that sees a gang dislocated from their main Coney Island turf and subsequently fighting their way back through a series of rival gangs. Each group wears their back story on their sleeves, The Orphans wear rags and have razor blades whilst The Baseball Furies are a baseball gang with the fiercest face paint I’ve ever seen. Each member has an identity built from their gangs kit of parts (hair cuts, uniforms, weapons, patterns), this results in a sophisticated ‘same but different’ look amongst the members of each gang and the cumulative effect is both visually striking and laden with narrative.
I saw these Asafo flags in the Artist and Empire show at the Tate Britain. From what I can gather the Asafo Companies were and are a hierarchical people’s militia of the Akan societies of Ghana, with influence extending more broadly to act as social and political organisations. The areas colonial past can be read in the morphed Union Jacks in canton (meaning the upper left quadrant of the flag), each flag has a wide, patterned border, and each depict allegorical fight scenes. These flags become identifiers for the various Companies of Asafo. Their interest to me is in their variety within the constraints of the vernacular graphics.
The Palio is a horse race in Siena. Characterised as violent, dangerous, and intensely political it’s been running twice a year since the 1600s. Spectators from ten city wards gather to watch their champion race for the glory of their part of town. The horses, riders, and spectators are covered in banners of the 17 various contrade colours. As Wikipedia says: “Each is named after an animal or symbol and each with its own long history and complicated set of heraldic and semi-mythological associations.”For example, Bruco means caterpillar and it’s residents were traditionally in the silk trade. The amazing thing here is the pride, fervour, and consistency with which each contrada’s colour is applied. I found it through this BBC programme: The Toughest Horse Race in the World: Palio