I watched a Documentary about the Asante Kingdom of Ghana. Daunting to know this was my Country before the presence of today, the customs which I saw nothing more than traditions, rituals, finally have a stronger meaning. Meaning is of importance to life, as we are subscribing beings in a sense of participating in a practice or realising an idea to the extent without it what we have is not of much purpose. To undo the existential sense of life, to make life fruitful and progressive, such meaning invites prosperity which gives birth to a Nation or way. The Spirit of the Asante Kingdom rose through the inspired Osei Tutu. He was described as a mysterious man, a Warrior who became the Leader of the Ashanti, a warlike disciplined group of people. Apparently the Ashanti people are said to be descendants of Ethiopians driven South by conquering Egyptian Armies, an idea proposed by Diodorus Siculus a Greek Historian. Unfortunately I do not have the resources to say otherwise or confirm this, a problem with attempting to realise truthful African History. However there are Phoenician and Ghanaian accessories on sale, claimed to be dated back to such periods. Osei Tutu succeeded to the throne in 1697 after his Uncle passed. At that point Denkyria, a great nation composed of Akan people holding a meta-ethnicity group that extended over the Gulf of Guinea in Ghana and Ivory Coast, was the most powerful nation in the idea of Ghana. Denkyria used to maintain many Gold Mines, a source of natural prosperity in such periods – especially with the trades conducted with the Europeans.
The Ashanti Flag
The Ashanti and a sense of the Period
The Ashanti emerged over 3 centuries ago in the dense forest parts of Ghana. The forest is respected in such places, certain areas banned from activity as they are recognised as important spiritual zones where births took place. The heat and humidity is scorching, so commanding that it is confusing to Historians how such a complex and sophisticated Kingdom could emerge from such conditions. The evidence for its rise comes in different forms, narrative oral history containing stories of the past, beats to drums telling a tale – the Ashanti people and the languages used can communicate through the use of drums, beats sounding like words and phrases. They used to use drums to communicate between villages, sending warnings and commands. Clothing, such as Kente cloth, also captures ideas which are important to traditions and cultures. Sacrifices for rituals emphasise the strength of it, such ideas make the people of Ashanti. From mere Hunter Gatherer like companies 6 centuries ago, over that 300 year period rose the Kingdom. Ghanaian Historians and Ashanti clan members describe the movement to utilise such an area. Clearing the forests with axes opposed to chainsaws in mass movements, pulling them down with vines and setting up agriculture to gain from the land. Utilising the land was important, to expand and bring wealth to the people. However an idea remained; Power is about Human beings, and having wealth to maintain the Control of them is also a mark of Power. The Ashanti King is the mark of this idea.
The Akan people utilised a Slave system before the transatlantic trade. This system was unlike the trade we know, yet it is still a loss of freedom. Although one does not have the entire right and choice toward their living, the important thing was keeping their Humanity. They still had the rights to aspire to life, they could marry, build property with their own expenses, have Children. People even married into their owners families. These Slaves were largely hired to clear the forests and farmers were pushed to cultivate the land. An abundance of resources soon followed, and the people would thrive through expansion. Gold mining had been a thing since the 15th Century, even trading Gold with Portuguese tradesmen for Guns in the 1470s. Gold had even found its way to North Africa. Another mark of Ashanti tradition and culture is the wooden stool, crafted for the weight of a Chieftain or a person held to high retard. A tale of a Golden stool summoned by Okomfo Anokye, a Priest and co-founder of the Ashanti Empire beside Osei Tutu, from the Heavens and placed on the lap of the first King Osei Tutu. This stool is believed to hold the spirit of the Asante Nation. Such ideas encompass the sense of togetherness of these people. The Kente cloth marks another, its meaning refers to his texture – whatever happens to it, and it will not tear. Each pattern hosts a proverb, each colour marks a representation of something. The Yellow as Gold, Black as our Colour, Blue of the Sky and Green of the Forest. The idea represents togetherness, we are greater together than apart.
During the Slave Trade, a lot of the people taken to the Americas and Caribbean were Akan people. In those periods these Akan people were referred to as “Coromantee” – a name which comes from a Ghanaian fort, a name or rather reference term usually given to Akan people in Jamaica. Due to the previous tribal disputes of the Ashanti people against the British and the Fante, now intensified due to the Fante siding with the British, where the Slaves were dispatched to various places. The Ashanti were placed in Jamaica and Barbados whilst the Fante who opposed the Ashanti and Dutch were sent to Guianas. These Slaves were famed for their rebellious nature, despite their hard working ethic they were fierce, resilient to the idea of being Captive in this New World. The descent of Slaves is a topic for another day. So the people of Denkyria were a mixture of Akan people, most of the tribes that make Ghana in its entirety. The Nations heights were before the British arrived, during the 18th century. It held trade with the Europeans in Western Ghana. It was a suzerain Nation, meaning it held control of other Nation’s but left it to its own managerial devices. This is what Osei Tutu witnessed as an opportunity. Tutu managed to infuriate the King of Denkern by impregnating his Sister. He was forced to escape with his life, but this indecency triggered the rise of a Kingdom. Tutu annexed the Governmental seat of Kumasi with his cousin Bautin, a fellow monarch. They allied to conquer neighbouring states, villages. Apparently Osei Tutu’s army formation was based on the march of Ants, who share a colony they work for and appropriate the best route to their target. A single line, straight and relentless, until its target is nothing more.
The Rise of the Asante Kingdom
This imposition of territorial dominance led to a War with Bosinante, King of Denkyria. This situation has been likened to the scenario of Troy for its similarities. Using Wives as attractive pieces in this puzzle of supremacy, Bosinante sent some of his most prestigious ones dressed in dazzling jewels to entice and impress Tutu. These Women, accompanied by Bosinante’s revered Warriors, were well received by Tutu – offering them gifts and sending them home safely. To return this service, Tutu sent his own beautiful wives led by his Chief Queen, a Woman with a unique beauty. Love at first sight of the Chief Queen enthralled Bosinante who was not alone in his feelings, the Queen was also attracted. She returned to Tutu pregnant, infuriating him to the extent he claimed to not rest until he had Bosinante’s head. Gold was offered for peace but it was denied. Tutu was already fired up for War. He ordered European weapons and transported them through Denkyria, who bafflingly allowed this transaction to occur. Bosinante passed away before the War had even began, but the aspiring Osei Tutu was determined on conquest – leading an army of 300,000 against Denkyria. The Akim allied with the Denkyria to fight back but were defeated over two battles. The ferocity of this War claimed many lives, allegedly including the life of Osei Tutu’s son – Ntim, born to the Sister of the King of Denkyria he impregnated.
The Spoils of War were Tutu’s to claim, his treasury impressive and recognisable to European Officers – delegates who went to meet this famed King of Ashanti. Tutu’s vengeance continued, entertaining the traditions of his ancestors he dug up the body of Bosinante, stripping his flesh to the bones feeding it to Snakes. The Skull and Thigh Bones were utilised as trophies for his Palace, such relics are used in celebrations as a mark of the strong Warriors they had defeated. The defeated Akim lost 30,000 men in that battle – Tutu invaded their territory after the battle too, demanding annual tributes if they were to exist under his reign. He continued his conquest of uniting neighbouring tribes, clans, villages and placing them under the idea of his own Kingdom. Despite his apt for War and persistence to see out his ideals, Osei Tutu was witnessed as a sort of Messiah. The unification of these people was important to establishing the Ghana we know today, despite the effects of the slave trade and colonialism. His birthplace is so sacred it is blocked off, the only statue of him reminiscent to a Baby Jesus. The people rightfully adored this conqueror, a hero who adapted the conception of his own people who carry a similar togetherness he inspired today.
However it is not all glory, in a conventional sense, since there are occurrences during this period which we may frown upon today. Such is the Slave Trade. A regular occurrence in that period was capturing people and selling them to the Europeans in forms of trade, a practice which continued until Slavery was abolished by the British. An uncountable part of the treasury Osei Tutu had was received in selling as slavers. A Ghanaian Historian of this period claimed this to be nothing more than the morality of the time, it was business. Captured enemies by Osei Tutu’s army were often sold as slaves, I am assuming regardless of the moralities at the time. Those people were surrounded by Black Faces, yet to be destroyed as an idea by the World. Little did they know, arguably they should have realised, that selling your own people across the World is not great practice for how you are witnessed – whether you are royalty or not. For Ghanaians today and many of the Akan people spread by Slavery, we are the descendants of such people. Due to slavery end, income was stunted and trade was conducted through other means. This is another topic I will touch upon in a following article.
Having failed to pay a tribute of 4000 ounces of Gold, Osei Tutu sent an army to annex the territory of the Akim in 1731. He was a late attendee to this battle, instead opting to visit forefathers in Bantama to pay respects to revered deities accompanied by his Wives and Children. A handful of Soldiers followed him to the route of the battle only to be met by an informed Akim ambush, who shot and killed the Great Leader – along with his party of 300, including his wives and children. The vengeance that the Akim received was truly brutal, the Ashanti people killed every living thing associated with their people and City. Tutu’s body was never found, but his day is recognised as Coromantee Miminda/Saturday. This monarch’s excellence was highlighted in the lack of arrogance by rank or title, he heeded the words of his subjects without acknowledging his own position as a right to importance.
A depiction of Osei Tutu and his Ashanti people
My personal thoughts
I spent last night watching a documentary about The Ashanti/Asante Empire, having known as a Ghanaian of the Empire but nothing about it. Although quite brief and concise, I gained a general idea enough to feel great about doing so. As the documentary played I entertained some notes, researched into these ideas and came up with this. The beauty of such a time can only captivate the mind, how excruciating it is not to able to witness such a time up close and personal. I took joy from imagining this scene: Thomas Bowdich wrote about the British Missions against the Ashanti in his book: Mission from Cape Coast to Ashanti. He described the King surrounded by many tributaries, Captains, attendants of every description. There is a sort of helpfulness toward authority in Ghanaian cultures.
Bowdich went on to describe the sea of umbrellas with workers underneath, trading and doing business. Fanciful clothing and silks, crescents, Elephants, Golden swords, Pelicans, barrels and arms. Decorations of skulls of former men of importance. A scene out of Game of Thrones, unfortunately one of the only representations I can manage to muster in comparison. Painting a picture on the blank canvas that is my History is important to me, and anyone else. For History in England is all around us, greeting us at every turn – celebrating literature or plays, classical music or mainstays of appreciation in galleries, museums. Marx sees History as a part of the superstructure of Society, leaning toward promoting the idea of bourgeoisie as rulers. In the same way we witness this British History which we were taught and surrounds us as the ruling idea, offering it respect – whilst we hardly know our own.
I hope to continue writing about Ghana, then other African countries and maybe even Caribbean History. Definitely Black British History. But the idea of this series is to help us realise who we are and add a face to the dark space of Black History. If anyone would like to join me writing about parts of Black History, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or iMesssage me at email@example.com – thank you