This month, one of the greatest women the country has ever produced, Mrs Theodosia Salomey Okoh, will celebrate her 92nd birthday.
This great woman has achieved a lot in her lifetime. She has won a number of national and international awards and citations. However, her greatest achievement is the designing of the national flag.
I had always desired to meet the designer of Ghana’s National Flag, and after what seemed to be an eternity, on April 19, 2014, I met the outspoken and vociferous 92-year-old Grandma Theodosia at her residence in Accra .
She is popularly celebrated in this country for her achievement as the person who designed the national flag that replaced the Union Jack after Ghana’s independence on March 6, 1957.
You can imagine the happiness from meeting such a woman who defied all odds to design one of the most beautiful symbols in Ghana and the world over.
To my amazement, I saw her reading without a “second eye,” reading glasses, unlike many of the aged in society.
In a fashion very common among achievers in society, the hard-working and tactful woman had displayed on the wall of her sitting room some art works she had prepared over the years.
She identified almost every work she had done with a sense of pride and happiness.
Having made the flag her topmost achievement, Mrs Okoh has displayed it boldly in her room. At the entrance to her sitting room is also an art work of the national flag.
But very strikingly, she told me that she wished she could do more for her nation even in her old age.
Before I made my way to her residence, I was schooled on her nature and personality; as a strict woman who would not tolerate any nonsense and laziness. Even though I was the interviewer, in some instances, Mrs Okoh would pose questions to me, which made me stare at her for sometime. In fact, she does not entertain excuses and expects the right things to be done. If she had little or no idea of an issue, she said it with all sincerity.
This was evident when she intermittently said, “He, wobegyegye me,” ( to wit; You are here to worry me) if she had forgotten or had less information about an issue.
All in all, her welcoming nature was splendid and could not go unnoticed, as she quickly offered me a seat and soft drink as soon as I entered her room, before she asked me of my mission.
Designing the National Flag
The Ghana National Flag was adopted in 1957 to replace the Union Jack after Ghana gained independence from British colony. Mrs Okoh shared the circumstances that led to her designing the flag.
“After independence, it was advertised in the dailies for someone to design a flag that would replace the colonial flag. I quickly filed my application and mine was subsequently selected,” she said beaming with smile.
“Since I was an artist, I could not but to submit my application in the hope that mine would be the most outstanding.”
Meanings of the colours of the flag
“It was by tact and deep thinking that I selected the colours for the flag with their corresponding meanings,” Mrs Okoh stated with a serious look on her face.
According to her, it was the responsibility of artists to select the name and meaning of any art work they produced.
The red in the flag represents the blood and toil of the forefathers of the country who fought to ensure that Ghana became independent from its colonial masters. Notable among them were the “Big Six” who at some point, were arrested and imprisoned for fighting for the independence of the nation, said Mrs Okoh
The yellow, she added, which is also known by many as gold, signifies the minerals in Ghana, including gold, bauxite, aluminium, manganese and diamond.
Unknown to many people the green colour means something more than vegetation as Mrs Okoh explains.
“The green goes beyond the vegetation in the country as many have alluded to over the years. My decision for the green is that God placed Ghana in the green belt, which is among the few countries in the world privileged to have this.”
The Black Star in the middle of the yellow symbolises that Ghana is the hope of Africa. It also portrays the identity of the Ghanaian as a black man created specially by God. The Black Star also stands for African unity, with no difference whatsoever among its citizens.
Uses of flag
Since its adoption as the national flag for Ghana, the “Theodosia Salome Okoh flag” is seen in every part of the country.
It is seen in government and some private institutions and is hoisted in Ghanaian foreign missions across the world.
Many private and commercial vehicle drivers hang miniature Ghana Flags in their vehicles to show their love for Ghana and especially to display their patriotism during competetive soccer games
Somehow the colours of the flag have also become a major source of job creation for many people in the country.
They are used to make ornaments such as necklaces, earrings, rings and beads and other tourist items.
About Theodosia Okoh
She was born Theodosia Salomey Asihene on June 14, 1922 at Anum in the Asuogyaman District in the Eastern Region. She was the fourth of eight children born to the Rev Asihene.
Growing up in a typical religious and royal family, she decided to leave an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people right from her childhood.
She had her elementary education at Asante-Akyem Agogo in the Ashanti Region. She later proceeded to the Agogo Presbyterian Training College to train as a teacher and taught all her lifetime. She later received a three-year training in art at the Achimota School and qualified as an artist.
“My father was one of the first art teachers in the Gold Coast. So I believe the teaching and art work is in the blood,” she noted beaming.
She married Mr Enoch Kwabena Okoh, the Head of Civil Service in the Nkrumah regime, and became known as Theodosia Salomey Okoh.
Due to her hardwork and dedication to national development, Mrs Okoh was awarded the Grand Medal (GM) by the nation. She has received a number of awards from some institutions in the country.
She received a citation from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and the National Sports Awards in 2004. Others are the Sports Writters’ Association of Ghana (SWAG) Awards and an award from “Obaa Mbo,” a TV Africa series.
Additionally, the Asuogyaman District Assembly in the Eastern Region has erected a bust in her honour at Anum, her home town.
Whenever Ghana’s flag goes high, Mrs Theodosia Salomey Okoh’s name is evoked.