Ashanti, also known as Asante, are part of the Akan ethnic group and are native to the Ashanti Region of modern-day Ghana. The Asante speak the Twi language. The Twi language 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 Asante 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 routes, 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 bullion.
The Asante Empire (Asante Twi: Asanteman) was an Akan empire and kingdom from 1670 to 1957 in what is now modern-day Ghana. It expanded from Ashanti to include the Brong-Ahafo Region, Central Region, Eastern Region, Greater Accra Region and Western Region of present-day Ghana. Due to the empire's military prowess, wealth, architecture, sophisticated hierarchy and culture, the Ashanti Kingdom has been extensively studied and has more historiographies by European, primarily British authors than any other indigenous culture of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Stool (Dwa), symbol of the Ashanti Empire.
Ashanti political organization was originally centered on clans headed by a paramount chief or Amanhene. One particular clan, the Oyoko, settled in the Ashanti's sub-tropical forest region, establishing a center at Kumasi. The Ashanti became tributaries of another Akan state, Denkyira but in the mid-17th century the Oyoko under Chief Oti Akenten started consolidating the Ashanti clans into a loose confederation against the Denkyira.
Golden Stool (Sika dwa) in the Ashanti Kingdom, 1935.
The introduction of the Golden Stool (Sika dwa) was a means of centralization under Osei Tutu. According to legend, a meeting of all the clan heads of each of the Ashanti settlements was called just prior to declaring independence from Denkyira. In this meeting the Golden Stool was commanded down from the heavens by Okomfo Anokye, chief-priest or sage advisor to Asantehene Osei Tutu I and floated down from the heavens into the lap of Osei Tutu I. Okomfo Anokye declared the stool to be symbolic of the new Asante Union (the Ashanti Kingdom), and allegiance was sworn to the stool and to Osei Tutu as the Asantehene. The newly declared Ashanti union subsequently waged war against and defeated Denkyira. The stool remains sacred to the Ashanti as it is believed to contain the Sunsum — spirit or soul of the Ashanti people.
Picture of Ashanti architecture drawn by Thomas Edward Bowdich, with Adinkra symbols on the walls.
In the 1670s the head of the Oyoko clan, Osei Kofi Tutu I, began another rapid consolidation of Akan peoples via diplomacy and warfare. King Osei Kofu Tutu I and his chief advisor, Okomfo Kwame Frimpong Anokye led a coalition of influential Ashanti city-states against their mutual oppressor, the Denkyira who held the Ashanti Kingdom in its thrall. The Ashanti Kingdom utterly defeated them at the Battle of Feyiase, proclaiming its independence in 1701. Subsequently, through hard line force of arms and savoir-faire diplomacy, the duo induced the leaders of the other Ashanti city-states to declare allegiance and adherence to Kumasi, the Ashanti capital. From the beginning, King Osei Tutu and priest Anokye followed an expansionist and an imperialistic provincial foreign policy. According to folklore, Okomfo Anokye is believed to have visited Agona-Akrofonso.
Realizing the strengths of a loose confederation of Akan states, Osei Tutu strengthened centralization of the surrounding Akan groups and expanded the powers of the judiciary system within the centralized government. This loose confederation of small city-states grew into a kingdom and eventually an empire looking to expand its borders. Newly conquered areas had the option of joining the empire or becoming tributary states. Opoku Ware I, Osei Tutu's successor, extended the borders, embracing much of Ghana's territory.
The Asante Ewer was made in England during reign of Richard II (1377–1399) and was discovered in 1896 in the Asante kingdom. The front of the jug bears the royal arms of England and each of the facets of the lid contains a lion and a stag. These symbols date the jug to the last 9 years of Richard's reign, when he adopted the badge of the white hart. Two more English bronze jugs from the same period were found at Kumasi, the Asante capital, at the time as this example. Perhaps all 3 were a set from the household of Richard II. How they came to the west coast of Africa remains a mystery, but there was extensive trade between West Africa and Western Europe across the Sahara Desert in the Middle Ages. Now it is in the British Museum, London.
European contact with the Asante on the Gulf of Guinea coast region of Africa began in the 15th century. This led to trade in gold, ivory, slaves, and other goods with the Portuguese, which gave rise to kingdoms such as the Ashanti. On May 15, 1817 the Englishman Thomas Bowdich entered Kumasi. He remained there for several months, was impressed, and on his return to England wrote a book, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee. His praise of the kingdom was disbelieved as it contradicted prevailing prejudices. Joseph Dupuis, the first British consul in Kumasi, arrived on March 23, 1820. Both Bowdich and Dupuis secured a treaty with the Asantehene. But, the governor, Hope Smith, did not meet Ashanti expectations.
Slavery was historically a tradition in the Ashanti Empire, with slaves typically taken as captives from enemies in warfare. The welfare of their slaves varied from being able to acquire wealth and intermarry with the master's family to being sacrificed in funeral ceremonies. The Ashanti believed that slaves would follow their masters into the afterlife. Slaves could sometimes own other slaves, and could also request a new master if the slave believed he or she was being severely mistreated.
The modern-day Ashanti claim that slaves were seldom abused, and that a person who abused a slave was held in high contempt by society. They defend the "humanity" of Ashanti slavery by noting that those slaves were allowed to marry, and that their children were born free. If a master found a female slave desirable, he might marry her. He preferred such an arrangement to that of a free woman in a conventional marriage, because marriage to an enslaved woman allowed the children to inherit some of the father's property and status.
This favored arrangement occurred primarily because of what some men considered their conflict with the matrilineal system. Under this kinship system, children were considered born into the mother's clan and took their status from her family. Generally her eldest brother served as mentor to her children, particularly for the boys. She was protected by her family. Some Ashanti men felt more comfortable taking a slave girl or pawn wife in marriage, as she would have no abusua (older male grandfather, father, uncle or brother) to intercede on her behalf when the couple argued. With an enslaved wife, the master and husband had total control of their children, as she had no kin in the community.
In December 1895, the British left Cape Coast with an expeditionary force. It arrived in Kumasi in January 1896 under the command of Robert Baden-Powell. The Asantehene (king) directed the Ashanti to not resist, as he feared a genocide. Shortly thereafter, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well.
Britain annexed the territories of the Ashanti and the Fanti. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was deposed and arrested, and he and other Ashanti leaders were sent into exile in the Seychelles. The Asante Union was dissolved. The British formally declared the state of the Ashanti Kingdom and the coastal regions to be the Gold Coast colony. A British Resident was permanently placed in the city of Kumasi, and soon after a British fort was built there.
Uprisings of 1900 and since 1935
As a final measure of resistance, the remaining Asante court not exiled to the Seychelles mounted an offensive against the British Residents at the Kumasi Fort. The resistance was led by Asante queen Yaa Asantewaa, Queen-Mother of Ejisu. From March 28 to late September 1900, the Asante and British were engaged in what would become known as the War of the Golden Stool. In the end, the British were victorious; they exiled Asantewaa and other Asante leaders to the Seychelles to join Asante King Prempeh I.
In January 1902, Britain finally designated the Ashanti Kingdom as a protectorate. the Ashanti Kingdom was restored to self-rule on 31 January 1935. Asante King Prempeh II was restored in 1957, and the Ashanti Kingdom entered a state union with Ghana on independence from the United Kingdom.
Starting in the late 17th century, the Ashanti king Osei Tutu (c. 1695 – 1717) and his adviser Okomfo Anokye established the Ashanti Kingdom, with the Golden Stool of Asante as a sole unifying symbol. Osei Tutu oversaw a massive Ashanti territorial expansion, building up the army by introducing new organisation and turning a disciplined royal and paramilitary army into an effective fighting machine. In 1701, the Ashanti army conquered Denkyira, giving the Ashanti access to the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean coastal trade with Europeans, notably the Dutch.
Today, the Ashanti Kingdom survives as a constitutionally protected, sub-national proto-state and traditional state in union with the Republic of Ghana. The current king of the Ashanti Kingdom is Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Asantehene. The Ashanti Kingdom is the home to Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana's only natural lake. The state's current economic revenue is derived mainly from trading in gold bars, cocoa, kola nuts and agriculture; forests have also been cleared to plant cassava, maize and yams.
In the Asante Twi dialect, Asantefo (/ˈæsɑːnˈtɪfoʊ/ ASS-ahn-TIF-oh); 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 homeland Ashanti 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 Ashanti region (Kingdom of Ashanti) is home to a Crater Lake the 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. They believe in forest monsters,and faries. Today Ashanti people number close to 3 million. Most speak the Ashanti language (indistinguishably also referred to as Asante Twi, a member of the Central Tano languages within the Kwa languages). Ashanti political power combines Ashanti King Asantehene Asantehene Osei Tutu II as the absolute ruler and political head of the Ashantis and Ashantis homeland Ashanti, with Ashanti semi-one-party state representative NPP, and since Ashanti (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. Ashanti region currently has a population of 11 million (11,000,000).
Today, as in the past Ashanti 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 Ashanti went from being a tributary state to the centralized hierarchical Denkyira kingdom. Ashanti king Asantehene Osei 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.
The Ashanti state strongly resisted attempts by Europeans, mainly the British, 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 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 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 Ashanti King Asantehene Prempeh I – whom they had exiled to the Seychelles in 1896 – and allowed him to adopt the title Kumasehene, but not Ashanti Asantehene (the Title of the Ashanti King). However, in 1935, the British finally granted the Ashanti self-rule sovereignty as Ashanti Autonomous Region 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 like R.S. Rattray's Ashanti Law and Constitution.
Culture and Traditions of Ashanti Empire
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.
Ashanti Soulwasher (Ashanti Sunsum Washer)
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.
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.
Ashanti greeting phrases; "akwaba" (welcome) and "ɛte sɛn" (how are you) in Ashanti language.
The Ashanti people speak Ashanti language with indistinguishable Ashanti Twi which is the official language of Ashanti Autonomous Region and main national language spoken in Ashanti and by the Ashanti people. Ashanti language is spoken by over 9 million ethnic Ashanti people as a first language and 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 language and Ashanti Twi have some unique linguistic features like tone, vowel harmony and nasalization.
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, Anglicanism and Protestantism) and Islam.
The Ashanti live in Ashanti specifically in Ashanti capital Kumasi metropolis and due to the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, a known diaspora of Ashanti exists in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica. Slaves captured by the Ashantis and sold to the British and the Dutch along the coasts were sent to the West Indies, particularly Jamaica, Barbados, Netherlands Antilles, British Virgin Islands. the Bahamas etc. Ashanti are known to be very opposed to both the Fante and the British people, 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. The name Coromantee (from Fort Kormantse, purchased by the Dutch in 1665) came from the original British fort on the Gold Coast to host Ashanti captives, despite this fort being used by the Dutch 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 Ashanti language (Ashanti Twi), can all be found on the island of Jamaica. Edward Long and white British 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 1st 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 3 finger Jack. The names: Nanny and Tacky are English corruptions of the Ashanti words and names: "Nanny" is a corruption of the Ashanti word Nana to mean "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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