GHANA: The Ashanti Kingdom
The Akan are a large ethnic group of people living in present day Ghana and Ivory Coast. In Ghana, the Ashanti, or Asante belong to this large ethnic group. These people are native to the wealthy Ashanti region of Ghana, popular for its major gold and cocoa production, with the regional capital at Kumasi. The major dialect of the Akan people is Twi, also known as Akan-speak, or Akan kasa. In Ghana the language is spoken by about 80% of the population as either a first or second language.
The Ashanti Empire was founded in 1670 by the Ashanti king Osei Tutu and his adviser Okomfo Anokye, when they unified the independent chiefdoms into one of the wealthiest, and most powerful military might in the region. The capital of this new found empire was Kumasi. Early on, the empire’s main source of wealth was gold trade, but it later diversified and became a major player in the slave trade, as the French, Dutch and British demand for slaves continued to grow.
The Asante had a long and protracted conflict with the British, starting in 1823 while the British were trying to encroach on their territory. The British succeeded briefly in capturing Kumasi the capital in 1874. The conflicts with the British ended in 1902, when the Asante Empire was finally squashed and annexed into the Gold Coast colony.
In Ashanti and the larger Akan culture, inheritance passes from mother to her children and is thus matrilineal. Even the symbol of Asante kingship and authority; the golden stool is passed down matrilineally from the king to one of his maternal nephew. In 1957, the position of the Asante king and his traditional chiefs was entrenched into the constitution, but his political power was ceded to the central government. The king is still revered and he has extensive influence in his main function of fostering the Ashanti culture.