Ashanti (// (listen)), also known as Asante, are part of the Akan ethnic group and are native to the Ashanti Region of modern-day Ghana. Twi is spoken by over nine million Asante people as a first or second language.
The wealthy, gold-rich Asante people developed the large and influential Ashanti Empire, along the Lake Volta and Gulf of Guinea. The empire was founded in 1670, and the Asante capital Kumasi was founded in 1680 by Asantehene (emperor) Osei Kofi Tutu I on the advice of Ɔkͻmfoͻ Anͻkye, his premier. Sited at the crossroads of the Trans-Saharan trade, the Kumasi megacity's strategic location contributed significantly to its growing wealth. Over the duration of the Kumasi metropolis' existence, a number of peculiar factors have combined to transform the Kumasi metropolis into a financial centre and political capital. The main causal factors included the unquestioning loyalty to the Asante rulers and the Kumasi metropolis' growing wealth, derived in part from the capital's lucrative domestic-trade in items such as gold, slaves, and bullion.
In the Asante dialect of Twi, Asantefo; singular masculine: Asantenibarima, singular feminine: Asantenibaa. The name Asante "warlike" is traditionally asserted by scholars to derive from the 1670s as the Asante went from being a tributary state to a centralized hierarchical kingdom. Asantehene Osei Tutu I, military leader and head of the Asante adwinehene clan, founded the Asante Empire. Osei Tutu I obtained the support of other clan chiefs and, using Kumasi as the central base, subdued surrounding Akan states. Osei Tutu challenged and eventually defeated Denkyira in 1701, and this is the asserted modern origin of the name.
The Ashanti Region has a variable terrain, coasts and mountains, wildlife sanctuary and strict nature reserve and national parks, forests and grasslands, lush agricultural areas, and near savannas, enriched with vast deposits of industrial minerals, most notably vast deposits of gold.
The territory Ashanti people settled is home to a volcanic crater lake, Lake Bosumtwi, and Ashanti is bordered westerly to Lake Volta within the central part of present-day Ghana. The Ashanti (Kingdom of Ashanti) 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. Asante region is hot year round.
Today Ashanti people number close to 3 million. Asante Twi, the majority language, is a member of the Central Tano languages within the Kwa languages. Ashanti political power combines Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II as the absolute ruler and political head of the Ashantis and the Ashanti Region, with Ashanti semi-one-party state representative New Patriotic Party, and since the Ashanti Region (and the Kingdom of Ashanti) state political union with Ghana, the Ashanti remain largely influential.
Ashantis reside in Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions in Ghana. Kumasi metropolis, the capital of Ashanti (Kingdom of Ashanti), has also been the historic capital of the Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti Region currently has a population of 11 million (11,000,000).
Today, as in the past, the Ashanti Region continues to make significant contributions to Ghana's economy. Ashanti is richly endowed with industrial minerals and agricultural implements, Ashanti is responsible for much of Ghana's domestic food production and for the foreign exchange Ghana earns from cocoa, agricultural implements, gold, bauxite, manganese, various other industrial minerals, and timber. Kumasi metropolis and Ashanti region produces 96% of Ghana's exports.
In the 1670s the Ashantee went from being a tributary state to the centralized hierarchical Denkyira kingdom. Asantehene Osei Kofi Tutu I, military leader and head of the Oyoko clan, founded the Ashanti kingdom. Osei Tutu obtained the support of other clan chiefs and using Kumasi as the central base, subdued surrounding states. Osei Tutu challenged and eventually defeated Denkyira in 1701, and presumptuously from this, the name Asante came to be.
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. Opoku Ware I, Osei Tutu's successor, extended the borders.
Sovereignty and independence
The Ashanti state strongly resisted attempts by Europeans, mainly the Kingdom of Great Britain, to conquer them. The Ashanti limited British influence in the Ashanti region, as 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".
Ashanti was one of the few African states that seriously resisted European colonization. Between 1823 and 1896, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland fought four wars against the Ashanti kings: the Anglo-Ashanti Wars. In 1901, the British finally defeated the kingdom following the 1900 War of the Golden Stool and Ashanti Confederacy was made a British protectorate, the Ashanti Protectorate, in 1902, and the office of Asantehene was discontinued with the Ashanti capital Kumasi annexed into the British empire; however, the Ashanti still largely governed themselves. Ashanti gave little to no deference to colonial authorities. In 1926, the British permitted the repatriation of Asantehene Prempeh I – whom they had exiled to the Seychelles in 1896 – and allowed him to adopt the title Kumasehene, but not Asantehene. However, in 1935, the British finally granted the Ashanti self-rule sovereignty as Kingdom of Ashanti, and the Ashanti King title of Asantehene was revived.
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. In the 1920s the British catalogued Ashanti religion, familial, and legal systems in works such as R. S. Rattray's Ashanti Law and Constitution.
Culture and traditions
Ashanti culture celebrates Adae, Adae Kese, Akwasidae, Awukudae and Ashanti Yam festival. The Seperewa, a 10-14 stringed harp-lute, as well as the Fontomfrom drums, are two of the typifying instruments associated with the Ashanti as well as the Ashanti Kente clothing.
Ashanti are a matrilineal society 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 property from the paternal side of the family.
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.
Law and legal system
In the cataloguing of Ashanti familial and legal systems in R.S. Rattray's Ashanti Law and Constitution Ashanti law specifies that sexual relations between a man and certain women are forbidden, even though not related by blood. The punishment for offense is death, although it does not carry quite the same stigma to an Ashanti clan as incest. Sexual relations between a man and any one of the following women is forbidden:
- A half-sister by one father, but by a different clan mother;
- A father's brother's daughter;
- A woman of the same father;
- A brother's wife;
- A son's wife;
- A wife's mother;
- An uncle's wife;
- A wife of any man of the same "company";
- A wife of any man of the same guild or trade;
- A wife of one's own slave;
- A father's other wife from a different clan.
The Ashanti people speak Ashanti Twi, which is the official language of the Ashanti Region and the main language spoken in Ashanti and by the Ashanti people. Ashanti language is spoken by over 9 million ethnic Ashanti people as a first or second language. The Ashanti language is the official language utilized for literacy in Ashanti, at the primary and elementary educational stage (Primary 1–3) K–12 (education) level, and studied at university as a bachelor's degree or master's degree program in Ashanti.
The Ashanti follow Akan religion and the Ashanti religion (a traditional religion which seems to be dying slowly but is revived only on major special occasions—yet is undergoing a global revival across the diaspora), followed by Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) and Islam.
Asante people received the religion of Islamic North Africa within their talismanic tradition, making amulets with Quranic citations, name of the Arabic angels or Jinn. Amulets were also set in the corners of houses or soaked in water to produce liquids for drinking and for washing that were believed to have thaumaturgical properties.
The Ashanti live in the Ashanti Region, specifically in the Ashanti capital of Kumasi, and, due to the Atlantic slave trade, a known diaspora of Ashanti exists in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica. Slaves captured and sold to the European slave traders along the coasts were sent to the West Indies, particularly Jamaica, Barbados, Netherlands Antilles, British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Guyana, Suriname, etc. Ashanti were known to be very opposed to both the Fante Confederacy and the British, as the Ashanti only traded with the Dutch in times of their ascension to becoming a hegemony of most of the area of present-day Ghana.
Coromantee, the English-language term for enslaved Akan people, came from the original name of the Dutch slave fort of Fort Amsterdam (Fort Kormantse). This was despite this fort being primarily occupied by the Dutch during its history and having no records of trade to Jamaica while being under Dutch ownership. Evidence of Ashanti and Akan-day names and Ashanti and Akan-surnames (but mispronounced by the English), Adinkra symbols on houses, Anansi stories and the dialect of Jamaican Patois being heavily influenced by Twi, can all be found on the island of Jamaica. White planter Edward Long, like other planters before him, described "Coromantees" the same way that the British in the Gold Coast would the "Ashantis", which was to be "warlike". Edward Long states that others around "Ashantis" and "Coromantees" feared them the same way as they were feared in Jamaica and from the hinterlands of the Gold Coast.
According to BioMed Central (BMC biology) in 2012, the average Jamaican has 60% of Ashanti matrilineal DNA and, today Ashanti is the only ethnic group by name known to contemporary Jamaicans. Famous Jamaican individuals such as: Marcus Garvey and his first wife, Amy Ashwood Garvey, are of Ashanti descent. It is commonplace for many Jamaicans to have this descent. Also are Jamaican freedom fighters during slavery: Nanny of the Maroons (now a Jamaican National Heroine), Tacky and Jack Mansong or Three-finger Jack. The names Nanny and Tacky are English corruptions of Ashanti words and names: "Nanny" is a corruption of the Ashanti word Nana, meaning "king/queen/grandparent", the name Tacky is a corruption of the Ashanti surname Takyi, and Mansong is a corruption of the Ashanti surname Manso, respectively.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ashantis.|
- Ashanti People hand History Profiles history and other aspects of the Ashanti.
- Ashanti Page at the Ethnographic Atlas, maintained at Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent, Canterbury
- Ashanti Kingdom at the Wonders of the African World, at PBS
- Ashanti Culture contains a selected list of Internet sources on the topic, especially sites that serve as comprehensive lists or gateways
- Africa Guide contains information about the culture of the Ashanti
- Historical Notes and Memorial Inscriptions from Ghana