Amon Kotei’s Call to Glory

AMON KOTEI, the last of the four distinctive A-political personalities whose distinguished works were critical in giving Ghana its identity as a nation, and would continue to live as long as the State – Ghana exist, has joined his ancestors.

Madam Theodosia Okoh, who designed the Ghana Flag;  Phillip Gbeho, who composed the National Anthem – ‘God Bless our homeland Ghana’; and  Ephraim Amu, who composed the local anthem – ‘Yen ara ya asase ne’ were the other three great and illustrious daughter and sons of Ghana who had passed away some years ago.

Amon Kotei, the last of the four, who is credited with the designing of the distinctive and exemplary piece of art – Ghana’s Coat of Arms, died peacefully at his residence in La in the afternoon of Monday, 17th October 2011 at the age of 96.

Born on 24th May 1915, to Amon Tete of Klanaa (Nikoitse We), and Yemoteley Ama Odonkor  of Leshie (Ofro Osro We), all of La, David Amon Kotei was educated at the La Presbyterian Boys’ School (La Salem) after which he gained admission to the Achimota College, where he studied Art. He also tutored the subject in the school after completion.

He was enlisted into the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) and worked with the Cartographical Division of the Army, drawing maps and plans for use at the war front during World War II.

At the end of the war, he was discharged with the rank of a Corporal. With his wide experience as a Cartographer, he joined the Survey Department as a Cartographical Draughtsman in 1946.

In 1949, Amon Kotei was awarded a Government Scholarship to further his education in the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts in the United Kingdom.  On completion, he was awarded the City and Guilds of London Institute Certificate; Second (2nd) Class. He returned home in 1952 and was employed in the then Gold Coast Government Printing Office, Accra.

In the Printing Office, he worked as a Graphic Artist, a Printer and an Instructor. In this capacity, he designed and made blocks for books, posters, illustrations and many government publications. He also had to his credit many book cover designs and illustrations for the book industry. By dint of hard work, he rose to the rank of a Senior Assistant Superintendent, a position known to be reserved for Europeans, in those days.

In 1956, as Ghana’s independence approached, a high recommendation came from the colonial government, through Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to the local Artist, Amon Kotei, and he was specially commissioned to design a Coat of Arms for the country which is distinct from that of our colonial masters – Great Britain; a task he accomplished with distinction.

To date, his work is described as one of the best Coat of Arms in the world.

Our political leaders and the colonial masters had suggested the use of the Elephant and the Palm Tree as the initial elements for the design. However, after some thoughts, Amon Kotei suggested the use of the mighty Eagle which Dr. Kweggyir Aggrey has described as having an indomitable spirit – the African spirit, and,’ the Ghanaian spirit too’.

In most countries, a competition is opened for the drawing public with a criteria. The best couple of works are then selected for review at the Royal Cabinet in Great Britain. Whilst others have to design and re-design their country’s Coat of Arms all over again; and at times succeed after more than three to five different designs,

Amon Kotei’s design received approval at the initial review at the Seat of Government at Osu. However, when it was sent to Great Britain for the final review, two minor modifications were made by the Royal Master Designers in London that was responsible for approving or accepting designs from emerging commonwealth countries before the Queen assents her signature and seal.

Modification one: The twisted or woven ribbon on which the Black Star stands at the top of the shield was originally hanging – the Royal Panel bent it in the form of an arc to stand on the shield.

Modification two: The banner below the shield on which the “Freedom and Justice” was written originally had its ends straight. – The Royal panel scrolled the ends of the banner and made the Eagle stand on it.

There was no second drawing or design of Ghana’s Coat of Arms – an artistically sound and unique piece for which a State Honour of Grand Medal (GM) Civil Division was conferred on him by then President Jerry John Rawlings on 7th March 1997.

Amon Kotei was also awarded the Living Legend Series by the Ghana National Theatre in 2003.

As if moved by a deep conviction of a ‘Call to Glory’ sooner than later, the La Traditional Council on 18th December 2010 organised an Inter-denominational church service in his honour. And in recognition of his singular distinction and creativity, Lamei (the people of La) honoured him with a Citation..

Some great artistic works that stand in the name of Amon Kotei include the illustration of D. A. Sutherland’s ‘State Emblems of the Gold Coast’ first and second editions of 1954 and 1956 respectively, and numerous postage stamps. He also illustrated several government publications and the illustration of Post and Telecommunication (P & T) Directory.

Others works include the illustration of three books by Mr. Mickson i.e. ‘Who Killed Lucy’, Now I Know’, Woman is Poison’ and many other books by many authors.

He also designed the school crest of Labone and Nungua Senior High Schools.

Amon Kotei was proudly survived by his wife, Sarah Addoley Addo of Nii Boi Nkpa We, La-Abafun, 10 children, 45 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

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