....'Asante' is the collective name of the peoples of continguous traditional states who speak a dialect of Twi, the language of the Akan peoples, which belongs to the Kwa group of languages. The early amantoo, the important group of states which at the turn of the seventeenth century became Asante, were: Asumegya, Kumasi, Juabin, Kumawu, Mampong and Offinsu. To these were later added Nsuta,Kokofu and Bekwai. All these states are within forty miles radius of Kumasi. The peoples of the states are grouped in what used to be exogamous matri-clans which number seven or eight and which provide dominant ruling groups for one or other of the states. The important states and some divisions of states and the clans of the ruling family groups are as follows:
Oyoko (with Dako): Kumasi, Juabin, Bekwai, Kokofu, Nsuta (Dako)
Bretuo (with Agona), Agona: Mampong, Tafo (Kumasi)
Asona: Offinso, Ejisu, Beposo
Asenie: Adonten (Kumasi), Amakom, Antoa
Aduana: Asumegya, Kumawu
Ekuona: Adanse, Asokore
Asakyiri: Akrokyere, Abrenkese
The Asante clanship system had considerable political value. The kingdom was united around a core of five Oyoko-ruled states: the ruling families claimed and still claim kinship relations and when combined were stronger than the other individual states. Secondly, members of the various clans were scattered over the various states which, therefore, had an interest in unification, particularly at a time when there was strong belief in the common ancestry of clan members.
The clanship system was, however, an Akan-wide system, spread over nearly the whole of modern central and southern Ghana, so that in itself it was not enough to provide the impetus to unity. It provided the framework of unity, which was achieved as a response to the pressure of 'more powerful and better armed and organized tribes south of Ashanti' upon the peoples who later came to be called the Asante. It was, specifically, the collective resistance to over-rule by the southern state of Denkyira which provided the occasion and the opportunity for the creation of the Asante union. About 1699-1700 the members of the Asante union came together, fought and defeated the Denkyera. After the conquest of Denkyera, the allied states became firmly united politically, and the Asante became definable as subjects of the Golden Stool and its occupant, the Asantehene.
The united states also became the basis for the creation of a military machine for offensive warfare against Asante's northern and southern neighbours, while the conquest of Denkyera opened the trade paths to the European trade establishments on the western Gold Coast for the purchase of arms and ammunition. With European arms and ammunition, the Asante at first concentrated most of their military efforts in the first half of the eighteenth century on the north. They pursued the Dormaa, then at Abesem, and, in the course of the attack, sacked Ahwene Koko, a trade centre and capital of the Wenchi State, in 1711-1712. They conquered Bono-Manso, the later Techiman, in 1722-1723 and stripped her of her gold hoards. Intermittent Asante-Gyaman struggles culminated in 1744 in the sack of Bonduku and the imposition of a tributary status on Gyaman. In the course of the Asante-Gyaman struggles, the Asante brought the Kulango-speaking people of Badu and Seikwa and the Brong of Nsawkaw under their control; they made an 'ally' of the Nafana of Banda. In the east the Asante successfully brought the states of Atebubu, Abease, Yeji, Prang, Wiase, Dwan, Kete Krachi, and Basa under control, in the course of a march to the north in 1744, when they imposed tributary status upon Gonja and Dagomba.
....Asante Subject States....
By the end of the eighteenth century, as a result of these military efforts, the Asantehene was head of three groups of states. First, there was central Asante, which consisted of the states of the Asante union. These, as already stated, were held together by voluntary allegiance to the Golden Stool and its occupant, the Asantehene. Secondly, I designate as 'provinces' the Asante-conquered Akan or assimilated Akan states which the Asante tried to incorporate into the Asante union. Thirdly, I call 'tributaries' those non-Akan states, such as Gonja and Dagomba, which the Asante regarded only as contributors to their economy and manpower, and which they did not try to integrate into the union.
These distinctions are necessary. They clarify the political nature of the so-called 'Ashanti empire' and the bases on which the different states in the empire became associated with the Asantehene. To use the term of 'province' for both, say, Mampong and Atebubu or Gyaman is to ignore the important fact that Mampong was a founder-member of the Asante union and was in it more or less by consent, whereas Atebubu and Gyaman were associated with the union by forece. On the other hand, to use the term 'tributary' for all conquered states conceals the significant fact that the Asante tried to incorporate the provinces into their union- to build a Greater Asante- but appeared satisfied with economic relationships with Gonja and Dagomba. The Asante conceived of Greater Asante as consisting of nine amansin or districts, each of which could contain one or more paramountcies. These districts were Adanse, Ahafo, Amansie, Asante-Akyem, Atwima, Brong, Kwabere, Manso and Sekyere.
Provinces were treated as central Asante states. They were expected to pay apeatoo, war-tax, levied after Asante wars; to send official contingents to these wars; to attend Kumasi Adae and Odwira festivals, and thus to participate in the rituals symbolising Asante unity and allegiance to her supreme stool; and to attend the general assemblies of Asante chiefs. The Asante "Great Oath" or writ of summons was introduced into these chiefdoms. The Brong chiefdoms were from the beginning treated as provinces. Atebubu and her neighbours were organised into a single political group under the Atebubuhene, who served as the link between them and the Asantehene and mobilised the men for Asante wars. Nkoranza, in the west, who proved her loyalty to Asante in the Asante-Takyiman war of 1722-3 always had a provincial status. Her neighbours Takyiman and Gyaman, further west, were at first treated as tributaries but later became provinces.
The north-west, in particular, was politically reorganised for two main reasons. Techiman had, before her conquest, been too well established to be left alone; and the north-west was rich enough in natural resources and in market opportunities to attract close attention. Political allegiance in the Brong district was, in certain cases, rearranged, and the district became a patchwork of allegiances. Dormaa in the west consisted of four discrete territorial divisions. Separating the Dormaa divisions were Sunyani, Antepim and Bosomtwe-Domase, Nsoatre and Berekum, which were administered as parts of Bantama, the Kronti division of the Kumasi state. Nine villages in Techiman were put directly under separate Kumasi chiefs, as follows:
|Nchiraa and Tuobodom||Nsumankwaahene|
|Boyem||Asantehema (Queen Mother of Asante)|
The Golden Stool of Ashanti. Believed to have descended from the skies in the seventeenth century through the incantations of Kɔmfo Anɔkye, Chief Priest of the King of Ashanti, Nana Osei Tutu. It was presented to the people as enshrining the soul of the nation and symbolizing their unity and the authority of the ruler. It has been regarded as a sacred object, the gift of the gods, and has been a source of inspiration to chivalrous deeds.
It is a mass of solid gold. It stands about a foot and half from the ground and the seat is about two feet long and one foot wide. Among the objects strapped to it are cast gold effigies of defeated warriors used as bells, one gold and two brass cast bells, and precious beads, suman. As the Golden Stool must never be allowed to touch the ground, it is placed on its special throne, the Hwɛdɔmtia, which in turn rests on an elephant skin, banwoma.
[Ref: A.A.Y Kyerematen , Panoply of Ghana, 1964]
The reverence and awe which the people have for their black stools is perhaps best illustrated by the attitude of the Ashanti to the Golden Stool, which is regarded as one of the Asantehene's black stools and represents their ruler Nana Osei Tutu, in whose rein the stool was received, and his immediate successor, Nana Opoku Ware. It is regarded as a living being and so is called Sikadwa Kofi, "The Golden Stool that was born on a Friday", and has precedence over its occupant, the Asantehene. It has its own throne, the Hwɛdɔmtia, and its own set of regalia, including state umbrellas, a shield made of elephant skin and a gold-plated drum and lute. It also has its own bodyguard and other attendants.
An alleged request by a former British Governor of the country, Sir Frederic Hodgson, for the stool to be brought out for him to sit on, was the immediate cause of the last of the armed conflicts between the British and the Ashanti, the 1900 Rising.
[Ref: A.A.Y. Kyerematen.]
Osae Tutu was informed, and a great gathering was held in Coomassie in the presence of the King and the Queen Mother, one Manu, and the Chief of Kokofu, called Gyami, and the Kokofu Queen Mother, Ajua Pinaman, and many others .
Anotchi, in the presence of a huge multitude, with the help of his supernatural power, is stated to have brought down from the sky, in a black cloud, and amid rumblings, and in air thick with white dust, a... stool with three supports and... covered with gold.
This stool did not fall to earth but alighted slowly upon Osai Tutu's knees. There were, according to some authorities, two brass bells on the stool when it first came from above; according to others, Anotchi caused Osai Tutu to have four bells made, two of gold and two of brass, and to hang one on each side of the stool.
Anoitchi told OsaiTutu and all the people that this stool contained the sunsum (soul or spirit) of the Ashanti nation, and that their power, their health, their bravery, their welfare were in this stool. .... Anotchi told the Ashanti that if this stool was taken or destroyed, then, just as a man sickens and dies whose sunsum during life has wandered away or has been injured by some other sunsum, so would the Ashanti nation sicken and lose its vitality and power.
This stool was never to be sat upon.. It was not the ordinary stool of everyday or even ceremonial use. On very great occasions, if its power were to be invoked, the King of Ashanti would just make pretence to sit upon it three times, and would then seat himself upon his stool, resting his arm upon the Golden Stool.
When it was taken to Bantama once a year it was conveyed under its own umbrellas and surrounded by its attendants who in number and adornments surpassed those of the King who followed after it.
It was during Osai Tutu's reign that Coomassie threw off the yoke of Denkyira. When the King of Denkyira had sent his usual demand for annual tribute, and upon his messenger, Abebrese [...Abebrese means lit. "trouble"] presenting his claim for a brass pan filled with gold dust and also the favorite wife and favourite son of every Ashanti chief, the chief of Juaben is reported to have risen up and struck Abebrese on the face and then to have killed him. His blood was touched by the finger of every Ashanti chief present, and all swore to resist and fight the Denkyira. The armies met finally at Feyiase, not far from Coomassie, and owing to the power of the "Golden Stool", the Denkyira were totally defeated. Their king, Ntim Gyakari, was said to have been found by the Ashanti (Coomassie) army sitting shackled with golden fetters and playing wari (a kind of draughts) with one of his wives. They were beheaded and the golden fetters-- known all over Ashanti as the sika dayanfo--became part of the insignia on the Golden Stool. Osai Tutu was succeeded by Opoku Ware, who in turn was followed by Kusi Boadum. He was succeeded by Osai Kwadwo, who was followed by Osae Kwame. He was followed in turn by Opoku Fofie and Osae Bonsu. It was during Osai Bonsu's reign that important additions were made to the regalia or insignia attached to the Golden Stool. The King of Gyaman, called Adinkra, saw or heard of the Golden Stool of Coomassie and made one similar to it. This so enraged the King of Asante that he led an army against Adinkra and totally defeated that chief near Bontuku (now French Ivory Coast), cutting off Adinkra's head caused that chiefs golden stool to be melted down and cast into two masks representing Adinkra's face. These masks were hung one on each side of the golden stool [Bowdich mentions this event; see p 196 of his book].
This event accounts for the mistaken report that one may occasionally hear, i.e. the Ashanti "Golden Stool" came from Gyaman.
Osai Bonsu Panyin was succeeded in turn by the following Ashanti Kings; Osai Yao; Kwaku Dua Panyin; Kakari (erroneously called Karikari); Mensa Bonsu; Kwaku Dua Kuma; Prempeh, 1888-95.
Each of these kings would add something to the Stool, but my informant does not know of any specially strinking addition.
[Ref: R.S. Rattray, Ashanti]
[Ref: A.A.Y. Kyerematen.]
The Golden Stool, the shrine and symbol of the national soul, which has cost us so much in lives and treasure, was bourne by Amo upon the nape of his neck, and sheltered from the sun by the great umbrella, made of material called in Ashanti nsa (camel's hair and wool). This umbrella was known throughout Ashanti as Katamanso (the covering of the nation). On either side of the stool walked attendants, each supporting one of the solid gold bells which were attached by thongs to the "ears" of the stool, and formed a portion of its regalia. Two other bells of brass, also attached to the stool, hung down over Amo's chest, the thongs attaching them to the stool being grasped by his right hand, while his left held the stool in position on the nape of his neck. The remainibg insignia of the Golden Stool consisted of iron and gold fetters, gold death-masks of great captains and generals, whom the Ashanti had slain in battle since the time of Osai Tutu. Among these were likenesses of Ntim Gyakari, King of Denkyira; Adinkra, King of Gyaman; Bra Kwante, King of Akyem; and Mankata [Sir Charles Macarthy, who was killed by the Ashanti at Esamanko, 1828]
Ref: Rattray pp 130-131
..... Captain Donald Stewart, who was then a Travelling Commisioner of the Gold Coast Colony, proceeded with a small escort to Kumasi, and delivered an Ultimatum to the king. His reception was unsatisfactory; the king's demeanor was haughty in the extreme, and that of his chiefs was, if anything, worse. Prempeh, badly advised by his councillors, refused to listen to the demands of the British Government , and this led to the campaign of 1895-6 under Sir Francis Scott. This campaign was a bloodless one, and overawed, no doubt, by the presence of the British troops, the Ashantis allowed us to enter their capital unopposed. The Ashantis themselves now say that they thought that the troops would simply march to Kumasi, establish a British Resident there, and then return to the Coast. To their dismay, however, they discovered that the Government had a much more deeply laid scheme, and that was the removal of the royal family and principal chiefs as political prisoners, and their incarceration until such time as the War Indemnity of 1873-4 was paid in full.
To a proud, brave nation, it must have been gall and wormwood to see their king have to make a slavish submission and be removed from their midst, and to find that their hated white foes intended to build a fort in the centre of their capital to protect the Resident from any possible treachery. King Prempeh was sent to Elmina Castle, and by removing him from Kumasi, the Government thought that they had broken the back of the Ashanti power, and assumed a Protectorate over the country, arranging for it to be governed by a native council of chiefs, with the British Resident as President of the Council.
By removing Prempeh, the Government had by no means broken the Ashantis, who still possessed the Golden Stool which to them represented Ashanti power. Their real king therefore is the Golden Stool, the chief whom the nation places on the Golden Stool being the king for the time being, and as long as they had possession of the Golden Stool, they still looked for the restoration of King Prempeh, who, they believed, had only been taken to the Coast to demonstrate the white man's power. I do not mean to imply by this that the Ashantis do not believe in hereditary succession like other nations and peoples. Hereditary succession is always through the female side of the Royal House, to ensure the future ruler having royal blood at least on one side. The eldest son of the king's sister, and not the king's own son, is always the Crown Prince, and therefore it will be seen at once, that by removing King Prempeh the Government by no means struck the Ashantis the blow it intended. For four years the Ashantis nursed their schemes of vengeance, and during this period the ex-king was removed from Elmina to Sierra Leone......
All this, however, further incensed the Ashantis, and especially the chiefs, who found their power steadily on the wane, but it was not until early in 1900 that observant people saw in the increasing demand for guns and powder the appearance of a cloud, which was soon to develop and burst over the country, letting loose the dogs of war. Several events combined to bring matters to a crisis. First, the Boer War led the Ashanti chiefs to believe that the Government had its hands full, and had no white soldiers to send to the Gold Coast; secondly, their fetish priests told them that the time was ripe for revolt; and thirdly, when the Governor arrived in their midst, accompanied by so small a following, it appeared as if fate was playing into their hands.
[Ref: Appendix II, Armitage
Asantehene Otumfuor Opoku Ware II sitiing in state, with the Golden Stool resting on its special chair, Hwɛdɔmtia, and protected by the specially designated Akatamanso, state umbrella.
Ref: Carol Thompson, The Asante Kingdom
An artist's rendition.
Asantehene, occupant of the Golden Stool.... He is seated on one of his ceremonial chairs, the ankaahono, decorated with a gold design of sliced oranges.
[Ref: A.A.Y Kyerematen , Panoply of Ghana, 1964 ]
Asantehene Nana Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, K.B.E. playing a pickup game of golf with the Governor-General of the then newly-independent Ghana, Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clarke, following the week-long celebration of Ghana's Independence, March 1957.
The King was behind a far more revolutionary change in the capital-- the erection of the extraordinary "Stone Palace" or Aban completed in 1822 and modelled on the European-derived stone buildings on the coast. The King claimed that the idea came from the earlier Asantehene, Osei Kwadwo. The Stone Palace, the King said, was "for his own immediate residence, roofed with brass pans beaten into flat surfaces, and laid over an ivory framework appearing within. The windows and doors to be cased in gold, and the door posts and pillars of ivory..."
...Freeman visited it in 1841 and noted thirty-one gold-handled swords and several gold-decorated calabashes displayed in one room, while in another room the King and some of his senior councillors were sitting, surrounded by various items of glass and other exotic valuables. One function of the place was as a treasure storehouse, and especially for those exotic items which were not absorbed into the established system of regalia or used for display.
Several soldiers and war-correspondents visited the Aban in 1874 and left their impressions: "The exterior was surrounded, as were all the buildings of the palace, with a tall fence of reeds, closely bound together. It had a courtyard, under the sheds of which the King kept his cellar of palm wine- of champagne and brandy too, they say- his umbrellas, new and old, his chairs and man-baskets of state, covered with scarlet cloth and leopard skin". Horns and drums were also kept here, while on the upper floors were "the art treasures of the monarchy"..... -books in various languages, paintings, copies of old newspapers, carpets, glass items, clocks and old furniture. The British seized some of these, and the building was later blown up. The pieces taken included a Queen Anne silver tankard, other items of plate, "a fine old coffee pot", "the Kings's collection of engravings, some of them fine old prints", and some lithographs of women in national dress. This royal taste for new forms of building was re-expressed by Kofi Karikari in 1874 a few weeks before the British entered Kumase: he instructed the captive missionaries Ramseyer and Kuhne to build him a European house a little way out of the capital.
Ref: M.D. McLeod The Asante, British Museum Publications Ltd, 1981.
Kwame Frimpon Anotche Kotowbere was the son of Amea Gyata, who had come forth from a spot in Adanse called the Bona Bom (the Bona rock). Amea Gyata died in Adanse, leaving a daughter, Nana Dufie Gyampontima, and a son, Dampte, who later became a priest. Amea Gyata belonged to the Asenie clan. This clan later left Adanse and went to 'Santemanso, and later again to Nkuruoso (near Bonwere). Various members of the Asenie clan founded Stools which afterwards became famous. Thus, Adu founded Aduaben; Akosa Yiadom founded Amakum; Sa Kodie Date founded Agona Akyempim, near the present town of Agona. Anotche was born at Adanse Akrokyere, and was the second son of Dwirawiri Kwa (an Asenie woman) and of an Adanse man called Kyei Birie. Dwirawiri Kwa was the [grand]daughter of Nana Dufie Gyampontima. Adutwumwa had married a man called Twumasi Amponsem, who was a brother of Owusu Panyin, who was the husband of Manu, the mother of Osai [Osei] Tutu. Anotche's elder brother was Yamoa, who also became a priest. He was killed along with Obiri Yeboa in the Domina [Domaa] war. [Komfo Anotche and the great Osai Tutu were thus related, an interesting and hitherto unrecorded fact in Ashanti history]
Effigy of Egyptian Mother-Goddess Hathor, on the right, is reproduced (above and below) on the gun of one of the soldiers (Abrafoɔ) that guard the Asantehene.
Photographs and the following are culled from:
Eva L.R. Meyerowitz, The Divine Kingship in Ghana and Ancient Egypt
The Falcon Clan People
Ancient traditions make it clear that the falcon clan people who worshipped the great Mother-goddess Hathor and her son Horus entered Egypt... in groups independent of each other.... Horus the Elder, son of Hathor, whose people originated from Punt (Punt I was situated in southern Arabia, Punt II in Nubia)..... There can be little doubt that these groups were segments of a matrilineal clan, for succession in its royal lineage was in the female line and Hathor and Horus are typical representatives of matrilineal deities