|Regions with significant populations|
|Ghana (Eastern Region, Central Region, Ashanti Region and Accra)|
|Christianity predominantly, Akyem Traditional Religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Akyem are an Akan people. The term Akyem (Akem, Akim or Aki) is used to describe a group of Four states: Asante Akyem, Akyem Abuakwa, Akyem Kotoku and Akyem Bosome. These nations are located primarily in the eastern region in south Ghana. The term is also used to describe the general area where the Akyem ethnic group clusters. The Akyem ethnic group make up between 3-4 percent of Ghana's population depending on how one defines the group and are very prominent in all aspects of Ghanaian life. The Akyem are a matrilineal people. The history of this ethnic group is that of brave warriors who managed to create a thriving often influential and relatively independent state within modern-day Ghana . When one talks of Ghanaian history, there is often mention of The Big Six. These were six individuals who played a big role in the independence of Ghana. Of the big six, people of Akyem descent made up the majority.
History and genesis of the Akyem states
Akyemmansa is the three traditional areas of Akyem in the eastern region of Ghana. Historically, it has been attested via oral history that the Akyem people were one of the first Akan people to migrate south from the Sahel to the area that became Bono state. This area is the origin of modern Akan people. A group of Akan people who left Bonoman later formed the Adansi Kingdom in the mid-14th century. The Adansis were known for their ability to build illustrious structures in their kingdom; hence the name adansi (builders).
In the first half of the 17th century, the area of what is now Ghana was dominated by three states the Denkyera, the Adansi, and the Akwamu. Within the Adansi state there were three military posts in the Western Portion Akyem Abuakwa, Akyem Kotoku, and Akyem Bosome.
Eastern Adansi as an entity lost much of its identity due to conflicts with neighboring states namely the Denkyira and much of it was absorbed in the Denkyira empire. The remnants of it, the Akyem states on the West were too strong to bring under Denkyira control. This gave rise to the identity and notoriety of the Akyem states in the later 17th century. Thus, during the second half of the 17th century the area which became Ghana was dominated by three states the Denkyera, Akyem and Akwamu.
The rising Ashanti Kingdom flourished under the leadership of Nana Osei Tutu, and during their ascendancy assimilated the once powerful Denkyira into the growing empire in the early 18th century. The Akyem nations, in an attempt to maintain autonomy and not crumble like the former superpower Denkyira, fled across the River Pra to reinforce its military posts.
Nana Osei Tutu chose to pursue the Akyem across the River Pra to teach them a lesson and, to attempt to further build the Ashanti Empire and expand its influence over another of its former subordinates. The Ashanti states which now included the former Denkyira empire used a methodology which involved overwhelming the opposing nation with sheer numbers and, demanding that they surrender. While crossing the river with his massive army, he was ambushed by the Akyems and fell dead into the river, while his massive army was defeated. This was on a Thursday; this brought forth the great oath of the Ashantis, "Meka Yawada" (I swear by Thursday). The Ashanti leader fell from the sniper fire of an Akyem Kotoku soldier. After the battle and the fall of Osei Tutu I, the succeeding Opoku Ware I, defeated the Akyems and took away Akyem Kotoku lands now designated as Asante-Akyem.
The majority of the Akyems, however, continued to flee south-eastwards and settled in several areas along the way until they came into contact with the Akwamu, another one of the original three 17th-century powerful Akan states, which had influences from modern-day Ghana all the way to present-day Benin.
18th-century Akyem-Akwamu war
The Akyems, especially the elite forces known as the Abuakwas but also the Kotokus, fought the Akwamus and emerged victorious. In defeating the Akwamu, the Akyem got control of the land the Akwamu had been occupying that belonged to the Ga nation, and the Ga people were allowed more autonomy in their historic lands. Accra came under Akyem rule as they were Akwamu areas. Frimpong Manso of Kotoku and Ba kwante of Abuakwa shared authority over Accra and the Adangbe area. Owusu Akyem, son of a sister of the Okyenhene, became the administrator of the Adangbe area. Historian J. K. Fynn writes the following:
The Akyem conquest of Akwamu in 1730 was one of the most decisive victories in Gold Coast history. The event was described by contemporaries as the greatest revolution that had taken place in that part of the world. Since the Akwamu themselves destroyed the old Ga Kingdom in the late seventeenth century.
After the war the Akyem Abuakwas made their temporary capitals in several former Akwamu areas, including Praso, until they finally settled at Pameng. However, it was during the reign of Nana Ofori Panin that the capital of Akyem Abuakwa was finally moved to "Kyebirie" (named after a black hat used by a hunter using the area as his hunting grounds). It is now known as Kyebi.
The victory opened up trade between the Akyem - a nation described as having some of the largest gold deposits - and Europeans on the coast.
Genesis of Akuapem state of Akyem
The Akyem Abuakwa created the Akuapem state out of the greater half of western portion of the former Akwamu state and it included the Aburi, Berekuso, Abiriw, Apirede and Larte areas. Ofori Dua, brother of Ofori Panin, became Omanhene of the Akuapem state.
During the reign of the great warrior king (Adontehene) of the Akyems, Nana Owusu Akyem Tenten, who was also known as the "Kwae-Bibirimhene" (King of the Dense Forest), the Guan ethnic group and the Dawu ethnic group appealed to him for help to drive the Akwamus out of their area for them to enjoy peace.
The Akyems were mercenaries during that time period and were known for helping neighbouring states fight off the middle men of the slave trade and adjoining states in other battles that were in the interest of the Akyem states' ultimate objective of remaining strong and independent. Nana Owusu Akyem Tenten (King of the Dense Forest) agreed to send his nephew a respected soldier, Odehyee Safori, with an army. They were victorious over the Akwamu again these battles and created the states of Akropong and Amanokrom. Safori pursued the Akwamus across the River Volta, where they settled up until the present day, with their capital at Akwamufie.
By 1740 the power within the coast was as follows: the Akyem firmly controlling a majority of the Eastern portion of the coastal area; with the Fante, Asante and Ahanta controlling the rest.
After 1740 the Akyem control of the coast was tentative and disagreements among the Akyem states weakened them. Also starting around this time, key areas on the coast were constantly being battled for with the Ashanti until 1816 when the Ashanti firmly established itself on the Eastern half of what became the Gold Coast in the former Akwamu State which the Akyem had won almost a century earlier. This was mainly due to a battle of attrition were the Akyem were out numbered. In the end, the Ashanti inherited some of the lands which had been won from the Akwamu including access to the coastal lands which essentially established the Asante empire as the most power state in the region which controlled all trade from the interior to the Coast. The Akim retreated back to their historic lands in what is now the Eastern Region of Ghana. To conclude, the Akyem are most famous because of the Akan states that existed before the rise of the empire of Ashanti the Akyem states remained the most independent and remained the most relevant.
J. K. Fynn writes:
The Asante bid for supremacy, however was violently opposed by older Akans states whose kings refused to accept the pretensions and claims of what they considered an upstart dynasty. Of these Akan states, Akyem resistance to Asante political domination was not only persistent but also it was nearly the most successful.
The Akyem during this tentative period between 1750 and 1816 still continued to show their ability to influence matters and act as Mercenaries helping those being oppressed by stronger states. This was demonstrated by helping the Ada, who were being oppressed by the Anlo, and defeating them in the battle of Nonombe around 1752,
The Ashanti-Akyem relationship post-1816 continued to grow into one of mutual respect that still exists in recent times. A common saying among the Akans is, “Okyenhene nko ara na Osantehene ne no di nsawoso”, meaning literally: “The King of Ashanti treats none but the King of Akyem on familiar terms.” This is due to the fact that the Akyem were strong and relatively independent during the peak of the Ashanti empire when compared to neighbours.
Post-1816 the Akyem enjoyed relative peace in their current location today and all of what became Ghana was under British rule by the early 20th century.
Nana Dokua era
The Nana Dokua era was known as an era of peace and prosperity due to her way of solving problems. History has it that during the reign of the famous Nana Dokua (Abirie) as both okyehene (king) and ohemaa (queenmother), a quarrel arose between her and the Kotokuhene at that time. As a result, she ordered part of the Amantomiensa (soldiers of the Paramount stool), the Asiakwahene (King of Asiakwa area of Akyem) and the Begorohene (King of Begoro area of Akyem), to remove the Kotokus from Gyadam. This war, known as the "Gyadam War", forced the Kotoku to leave Gyadam. The Kwabenghene allowed them a safe passage and not a shot was fired when they passed through Kwabeng. The Kotokuhene was given land by the then chief of Wankyi, Barimah Awire (the Oseawuohene (Chief of Oseawuo area of Akyem Abuakwa) to settle at what is now known as Oda, the capital of Akyem Kotoku state.
During the reign of Nana Dokua, a section of the Juabens of Ashanti revolted against the Golden Stool of Ashanti. The rebels, led by their chief, Nana Kwaku Boateng, were forced to leave Juaben in Ashanti for the south. They found settlement at Kyebi, Kwabeng, Tafo, Asamankese and other parts of Akyem Abuakwa. Later, when the trouble in Juaben subsided, some of them returned to Ashanti but came back again. On the third occasion a negotiating settlement on their behalf was met and with the consent of both the Kukurantumihene (the Adontehee of Akyem Abuakwa), Nana Kwaku Abrante and Okyehene Nana Dokua, the Juabens got land. They settled on it under the leadership and rule of their chief, Nana Kwaku Boateng, calling the area New Juaben, with Koforidua as its capital. An annual fee was agreed to be paid to the Akyem this practice continued until Dr. Kwame Nkrumah abolished it after independence.
Akyem people of today
Pre and post colonially, the Akyem have been very involved in the intellectual and pan-African ideology that made Ghana unique among its peers. Several of the political and educated elite were of Akyem descent. This influence continues today in modern Ghana. The Akyem have been assimilated under the common Ghanaian identity where ethnicity does not play a role as it does in other countries.
List of rulers of the Akan kingdom of Akyem Abuakwa
(Dates in italics indicate de facto continuation of office)
|c.1500||Foundation of Akyem Abuakwa state (also called Okyeman)|
|???? to ????||Ba Kwante, Okyenhene|
|1704 to April 1727||Ofori Panyin I, Okyenhene|
|1727 to 1742||Owusu Akyem Tenten, Okyenhene|
|1742 to 1765||Pobi Asomaning II, Okyenhene|
|1765 to 1772||Twum Ampofo I, Okyenhene||1st Term|
|1772 to 1783||Obirikorang Aboree, Okyenhene||1st Term|
|1783||Twum Ampofo I, Okyenhene||2nd Term|
|1783 to 1790||Obirikorang Aboree, Okyenhene||2nd Term|
|1790 to 1801||Twum Ampofo I, Okyenhene||3rd Term|
|1801 to 1807||Nana Saforo Apraku, Okyenhene|
|1807 to September 1811||Nana Atta Wusu Yiakosan, Okyenhene|
|1811||Nana Asare Bediako Kwadwo Kuma, Okyenhene|
|1811 to 1816||Nana Kofi Asante Bayinyiye, Okyenhene|
|1816 to 1817||Nana Twum Ampofo II, Okyenhene|
|1817 to 1835||Nana Afia Dokuaa, Regent||♀|
|1835 to March 1859||Nana Ofori Atta Panin, Okyenhene|
|May 1859 to May 1866||Nana Atta Obuom, Okyenhene|
|July 1866 to 2 February 1887||Nana Amoako Atta I, Okyenhene||In exile at Lagos 14 May 1880 to 8 January 1885|
|1887 to February 1911||Nana Amoako Atta II, Okyenhene|
|April 1911 to 26 November 1912||Nana Amoako Atta III, Okyenhene|
|30 November 1912 to 1927 to 21 August 1943||Nana Ofori Atta I, Okyenhene|
|1927 to 21 August 1943||Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, Okyenhene|
|25/27 September 1943 to 13 June 1958||Nana Ofori Atta II, Okyenhene||1st Term|
|13 June 1958 to 14 April 1959||Nana Kwabena Kena II, Regent|
|14 April 1959 to 5 December 1966||Nana Amoako Atta IV, Okyenhene|
|5 December 1966 to 13 September 1973||Nana Ofori Atta II, Okyenhene||2nd Term|
|1973 to 1 May 1976||Nana Ofori Atta III, Okyenhene|
|2 August 1976 to 17 March 1999||Nana Kuntunkununku II, Okyenhene|
|17 March 1999 to 4 October 1999||Osabarima Kena Ampaw II, Regent|
|4 October 1999 to present||Nana Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyenhene|
|ante1400||Foundation of Akyem Kotoku state|
|1400 to ????||Nana Yaraware, Kotokuhene|
|???? to ????||Nana Boadi Nanim, Kotokuhene|
|???? to ????||Nana Danso Brempon (Akrofi Brempong), Kotokuhene|
|???? to 1717||Nana Ofosu Aprenten, Kotokuhene|
|ante/c.1733 to post/c.1733||Nana Frempong Manso I, Kotokuhene|
|???? to 1814||Nana Kwakye Adeyefe, Kotokuhene|
|1824 to 1825||Nana Afrifa Akwada, Kotokuhene|
|1825 to 1867||Nana Agyeman, Kotokuhene|
|1867 to September 1927||Nana Attafua, Kotokuhene|
|1948 to post/c.1960||Nana Frempong Manso III, Kotokuhene|
|19?? to June 1998||Okofrobour Agyeman Attafua, Kotokuhene|
|June 1999 to present||Oseadeeyo Frempong Manso IV, Kotokuhene|
List of Rulers of the Akan state of Akyem Bosume
|ante/c.1818 to post/c.1818||Nana Koragye Ampaw, Bosumehene|
|Nana Bosompem Ntow II,|
|ante/c.1960 to post/c.1960||Nana Oware Agyekum II, Bosumehene|
The traditional area of the Akyem is sometimes known as Kwaebibirim or the "Birim Forest" because of its abundance in rich natural resources. This area is in the tropical rain forest with fertile river valleys, deep loamy soil, and fresh fauna. The land is watered by the famous river Birim. The river Birim is the source of Ghana's diamond. The spiritual, physical and philosophical sustenance of the Akyem people are derived from river Birim. The Akyem do not worship the river per se, they revere it as their source of inspiration, giving them life and strength.
During the Ohum Festival, Akyems thank the creator for blessing their land with such a magnificent river (Birim). The products from the Akyems land and river are symbols which are used to remember ancestors who struggled and persevered to keep the society intact. During the festival the descendants pledge to continue the tradition, to keep Okyeman strong and free with peace and prosperity. They then pledge allegiance to their King (Okyehene) and their sub-chiefs and elders for their leadership and guidance. This ceremony of thanksgiving to the creator is the great festival of the Akyem people known as[clarification needed]. The Ohum festival is celebrated in Akyem Abuakwa in two parts: the Ohumkan and the Ohumkyire. The Ohum festival is celebrated with the chief and people of Akyem Tafo visiting the Gyempremo shrine to perform rituals and make sacrifices to the deity. Legend has it that any person who trips and falls on the return journey from the Gyempremo shrine will not live to see the new year. On the Ohum Tuesday, it is forbidden to make any noise including the pounding of fufu, the main staple diet of the Akan people till dusk.
Akyem Practice Traditional Religion through their ancestors.
- Akan Laws and Customs.
- Kwamina B. Dickson, A Historical Geography of Ghana, Cambridge Universitypress, 1969, p. 23.
- J. K. Fynn, "Asante and Akyem Relations 1700 — 1831.
- Allan Carpenter, Janis Fortman Children's Press, 1977, 95 pp. Introduces the geography, history, government, economy, culture and people of this small country in western Africa.
- William Ernest Frank Ward, A History of the Gold Coast, G. Allen & Unwin, 1948; 387 pp.
- Wilks, Ivor (2003-01-01). "Affrifah, Kofi. – The Akyem Factor in Ghana's History 1700-1875. Accra, Ghana Universities Press (distributed by African Books Collective Ltd., Oxford), 2000, 259 p., index, bibl". Cahiers d’études africaines. 43 (171): 659–660. ISSN 0008-0055.
- Giving Akyem History Its Due. Robert Addo-Fening, The Journal of African History, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2002), pp. 324–326. Published by Cambridge University Press