Hello there! This week, I went out of the 15-mile radius that I usually occupy in Accra. Over the weekend, I went to the south of Ghana to explore Kumasi, the capital of the Asante region and grew even more intrigued by Ghanaian culture.
The Asante people are part of the Akan tribe which was established in the late 17th century when Osei Tutu, the first Asantehene, established a powerful confederacy. This coalition still stands today as all Asantehene (Asante people) are united through the golden stool. In Ghana, stools symbolize a person of high status, typically a chief or king. On Sunday, my final night in Kumasi, I attended the Akwasidae Festival at the Manhyia Palace, a historical museum of the Asantehene.
Me at the entrance to Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, Ghana
Akwasidae occurs every forty-two days. Nine times a year, on Sunday all Akan traditional rulers and chiefs observe this festival in their towns and villages. They perform ceremonial rites to invoke ancestral spirits of their deceased predecessors, to greet and pay homage to all people in a public assembly, and to bring happiness and prosperity to the Asante nation and Ghana as a whole.
According to Festival Specialist, Kwaku Amoako-Attaah, whom I had the pleasure to meet at Akwasidae, festivals in Ghana are important for numerous reasons:
Historically, it allows people to know their history and recall the “noble past” of their ancestors in order to express their gratitude to them.
Religiously, it allows for continued relations between the dead and the living. The people can ask for forgiveness or petition ancestral spirits.
Socially, it reunites family members, relatives, and loved ones in order to settle quarrels and misunderstandings. As well as providing a forum for marriages.
Economically, it brings the majority of citizens together which allows development projects to be initiated through the collection of funds from locals and visitors.
Politically, it allows people the opportunity to assess the virtue and efficiency of their chiefs as well as pay homage to them. At this time, sub-chiefs are also chosen and they restate their allegiance to the nation. Citizens can also be educated and updated on the current projects completed or undertaken by the government.
Morally, it reinvigorates people to be their best selves as upright citizens. By giving a forum where the chief is accountable to his people, the youth are reminded to live well and create a bright future for themselves and Ghana.
With its strategic location, Kumasi, as a capital city, once provided the Asante people control of major trade routes through which gold and kola passed from the forest region to the north. Moreover, presently, the religion, architecture, and political systems of the Asante serve as evidence of the multifaced and advanced culture in Africa that existed well before colonization. A new friend told me that ‘Kumasi is the center of Ghana. In terms of human behavior, everything started here.’