Ashanti people

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Ashantis
Asantefo
Prempeh I.jpg
Paul Cuffee1.jpg
Asantewaa.jpg
Ozwald Boateng (Financial Times).jpg
John Agyekum Kufuor - World Economic Forum on Africa 2008.jpg
Peter Mensah Comic-Con 2009.jpg
Total population
Upwards of 10 million
Regions with significant populations
Ashanti, Asanteman
Languages
Akan, Asante
Religion
Akan, Ashanti, Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Non-religious and others
Related ethnic groups
Akan

Ashanti, or Asante (pronunciation: /ˈæʃɑːnˈt/ A-shahn-TEE), are a nation and Akan people who live predominantly in, and native to Ashanti, Asanteman, and in Ghana and Ivory Coast. They speak the Akan language and the Asante dialect, and are of Akan origin. Prior to European colonization, the Ashanti people developed a large and influential empire in West Africa. The Ashanti later developed the powerful Ashanti Confederacy or Asanteman and became the dominant presence in the region. The Asantehene is the political and spiritual head of the Asantes.

Geography[edit]

Map of Ashanti within Ghana

Ashanti has a variable terrain, coasts and mountains, forests and grasslands, lush agricultural areas and near deserts. The territory Ashanti settled Asanteman, is within the central part of present-day Ghana, about three hundred kilometres from the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean coast. The territory is densely forested, mostly fertile and to some extent mountainous. There are two seasons—the rainy season (April to November) and the dry season (December to March). The land has several streams; the dry season, however is extremely desiccated. It is hot year round.

Flag of Ashanti

Today Ashanti number close to 7 million people (4 million in Asanteman, 98.7% of the Ashanti population, speaking Asante, also referred to as Twi, a member of the Niger–Congo language family). Their political power has fluctuated since Asanteman and Ghana state political union, but they remain largely influential. U.N. Ambassador Kofi Agyekum Kuffour is an Ashanti. The majority of Ashantis reside in Ashanti, Asanteman currently a sub-nation state within Ghana. Kumasi, the capital of Asanteman, has also been the historic capital of the Ashanti Kingdom. Currently, Asanteman has a population of 3,812,950.[1]

Family[edit]

Ashanti soulwasher
An Ashanti woman wearing the Asante Kente

Ashanti are one of Africa's matrilineal societies where line of descent is traced through the female. Historically, this mother progeny relationship determined land rights, inheritance of property, offices and titles. It is also true that the Ashanti inherit from the paternal side of the family. Property is defined as something inherited from the father, hence the name "agyapade", meaning inheritance from a good father. Normally, a poor father has nothing to give their children, and often marry into a family which has wealth from ancestors.

The father's role was to help the conception and provide the nkra or the soul of the child; that is, the child received its life force, character, and personality traits from the father. Though not considered as important as the mother, the male interaction continues in the place of birth after marriage.

Historically, an Ashanti girl was betrothed with a golden ring called "petia" (I love you), if not in childhood, immediately after the puberty ceremony. They did not regard marriage "awade" as an important ritual event, but as a state that follows soon and normally after the puberty ritual. The puberty rite was and is important as it signifies passage from childhood to adulthood in that chastity is encouraged before marriage. The Ashanti required that various goods be given by the boy's family to that of the girl, not as a 'bride price,' but to signify an agreement between the two families.

History[edit]

Ashanti Kingdom[edit]

Asanteman Coronation Durbar in the capital city of Kumasi. Otumfuo Prempeh II the Asantehene is seen with the Golden Stool of Asanteman and members of his retinue, in 1953.

In the 1670's the Ashanti went from being a tributary state to a centralized hierarchical kingdom. Osei Tutu, military leader and head of the Oyoko clan, founded the Ashanti kingdom.[2] He obtained the support of other clan chiefs and using Kumasi as the central base, subdued surrounding Akan states. He challenged and eventually defeated Denkyira in 1701.

Realizing the weakness of a loose confederation of Akan states, Osei Tutu strengthened centralization of the surrounding Akan groups and expanded the powers judiciary system within the centralized government. Thus, this loose confederation of small city-states grew into a kingdom or empire looking to expand its land. Newly conquered areas had the option of joining the empire or becoming tributary states.[3] Opoku Ware I, Osei Tutu's successor, extended the borders, embracing much of present day Ghana's territory.[4]

The Golden Stool[edit]

The legend of the Golden Stool (Sika 'dwa) is important as it is an account of the birth of the Ashanti Kingdom itself. In the seventeenth century, in order for the Ashanti gain independence from Denkyira (another powerful contemporaneous Akan state), a meeting of all the clan heads of each of the Ashanti settlements was convened. In this meeting, the Golden Stool was called down from the heavens by Okomfo Anokye, the Priest or sage advisor to the very first Asantehene (Ashanti King), Osei Tutu I. The Golden Stool descended from the skies and rested on the lap of Osei Tutu I. Okomfo Anokye then declared the Stool to be the symbol of the new Ashanti Union (Asanteman), and allegiance was sworn to both the Golden Stool and to Osei Tutu as the Asantehene. The newly founded Asanteman went to war with Denkyira and subsequently defeated it.[5]

The Golden Stool is sacred to the Ashanti, as it is believed that it contains the Sunsum viz, the spirit or soul of the Ashanti people. Just as man cannot live without a soul, so the Ashanti would cease to exist if the Golden Stool were to be taken from them. The Golden Stool is regarded as sacred that not even the king was allowed to sit on it, a symbol of nationhood and unity.

The Golden Stool is a curved seat 46 cm high with a platform 61 cm wide and 30 cm deep. Its entire surface is inlaid with gold, and hung with bells to warn the king of impending danger. It is an Ashanti legend and has only been seen by the tribe's royalty. Only the king and trusted advisers know the hiding place of the stool. Replicas of the stool have been produced for the chiefs and at their funerals are ceremonially blackened with animal blood, a symbol of their power for generations.

The Ashanti have always defended their Golden Stool when it was under threat. In 1896, the Ashanti allowed their King, Prempeh I, to be exiled rather than risk losing a war and the Golden Stool in the process. The Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Hodgson, demanded to sit on the stool in 1900. The Ashanti remained silent and when the assembly ended, they went home and prepared for war. Although they lost on the battle field, they claimed victory because they fought only to preserve the sanctity of the Golden Stool, and they had. Then in 1920, a group of African road builders accidentally found the Golden Stool and stripped it of its gold ornaments. They were tried by an Ashanti court, found guilty and sentenced to death, but the British intervened and their punishment was commuted to perpetual banishment.

The Ashanti have always been proud of the uniqueness of their Golden Stool, and it signified not only their independence, but a common bond between their people. When King Kwadwo Adinkra of Gyaaman made a golden stool for himself in their early 1800s, the reigning Asantehene was so annoyed that he led a massive army against him. Adinkra's forces were completely destroyed near Bondoukou, and he was decapitated. The Asantehene then ordered that the counterfeit golden stool be melted down and made into two masks representing Adinkra's "ugly" face. These masks still hang today on each side of the Golden Stool as a reminder of the incident.

European colonization and independence[edit]

Ashanti yam ceremony, 19th century by Thomas E. Bowdich

The Ashanti strongly resisted attempts by Europeans, mainly the British, to subjugate them. The Ashanti limited British influence in the region. Britain annexed neighbouring areas. The Ashanti were described as a fierce organized people whose king "can bring 200,000 men into the field and whose warriors are evidently not cowed by Sniper rifles and 7-pounder guns"[6]

Ashanti was one of the few African states able to offer serious resistance to European colonizers. Between 1823 and 1896, Britain fought four wars against the Ashanti kings (the Anglo-Ashanti Wars). In 1901, the British finally defeated the kingdom and incorporated it into the Gold Coast colony as a protectorate.

Because of the long history of mutual interaction between Ashanti and European powers, the Ashanti have the greatest amount of historiography in sub-Saharan Africa.

The British touted the Ashanti as one of the more civilized African peoples, cataloguing their religious, familial, and legal systems in works like R.S. Rattray's Ashanti Law and Constitution.

Independence[edit]

Relations improved, however, and in 1926 the Ashanti was restored ceremonial control over Kumasi. In 1935, Asanteman and the full role of leader of the Ashanti people was restored.

Demographics and culture[edit]

Ashantis currently make up 98.7% of the Ashanti Region's population, and it is estimated that the Ashantis are 19% of Ghana's population which makes it the largest of ethnic group in Ghana. The Akan comprise the majority of the population of Ghana, the Akan population make a plurality 57% of the population of Ghana. The former president John Kufuor is an Ashanti and was elected in part with their support. Ashanti culture celebrates Adae, Adae Kese, Akwasidae, Awukudae and Ashanti Yam festival.

Religion[edit]

Ashanti religions are the Akan religion and Ashanti traditional religion, Christianity; Catholic Christians and Irreligion[citation needed].

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Robert B. Edgerton, 1995, The Fall of the Asante Empire. The Hundred-Year War for Africa's Gold Coast. New York, ISBN 0-02-908926-3
  • N. Kyeremateng, K. Nkansa, 1996, The Akans of Ghana: their history & culture, Accra, Sebewie Publishers
  • Alan Lloyd, 1964, The Drums of Kumasi, Panther, London
  • Ernest E. Obeng, 1986, Ancient Ashanti Chieftaincy, Ghana Publishing Corporation, ISBN 9964-1-0329-8
  • Quarcoo, Alfred Kofi, 1972, 1994 The Language of Adinkra Symbols Legon, Ghana: Sebewie Ventures (Publications) PO Box 222, Legon. ISBN 9988-7533-0-6
  • Kevin Shillington, 1995 (1989), History of Africa, St. Martin's Press, New York
  • D. Warren, The Akan of Ghana

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ashanti.com.au - Ashanti
  2. ^ Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, St.Martin's, New York, 1996 (1989), p. 194
  3. ^ Giblert, Erik Africa in World History: From Prehistory to the Present 2004
  4. ^ Shillington, loc. cit.
  5. ^ Alan Lloyd, The Drums of Kumasi, Panther, London, 1964, pp. 21-24
  6. ^ Sir Garnet Wolseley's Despatches on the Ashanti War - "The Newfoundlander". December 16, 1873.

External links[edit]