The Ashanti (Asante, Asanti) tribe can currently be found in central Ghana, western Africa. They are the major ethnic group of the Akans (Ashanti and Fanti) people in Ghana. Before Ghana, was Gold Coast, a nation dominated by the Akans with their capital in Kumasi.
They speak the Twi or Ashanti Twi dialect, one of the major dialects in Ghana today. Family is of utmost importance to the Ashanti tribe, especially the mother’s family. A child is believed to have inherited the mother’s flesh and blood, and the father’s soul.
Ancient Ashantis lived together in huts built around a courtyard. The head of the household was usually the oldest brother living in the clan, who is picked by the elders. He is called the Father or House father.
Talking drums are important to the Ashantis. They are used to learn their language. A boy is taught to use the talking drum by his mother’s brother.
The Ashantis are known for a variety of arts and crafts especially weaving. Only Ashanti men are allowed to weave, although the women may pick the material for the weave and spin it. They are also known for pottery, metal-casting and wood carving.
One of the most important symbols of the Ashanti is the golden stool. The golden stool has never been sat on by anyone, neither has it touched the ground. According to a legend, Okomfo Anokye a High Priest and one of the two chief founders of the Asante Confederacy, caused the stool to descend from the sky and land on the lap of the first Asante king, Osei Tutu.
It is guarded with the utmost security and usually placed on animal skin or another stool. The golden stool which is said to represent the worship of ancestors, well-being, and the nation of Ashanti is only brought out during grand occasions.
Ashantis are also popular for the Kente cloth. Kente comes from the word ‘kenten’ which means ‘basket’ because the initial Kente weavers used rafia palm to make clothes that looked like a basket.
Did You Know?
- In 1896 during a war against Britain, the Ashanti people allowed King Prempeh I of the Ashanti kingdom to be deported because they feared the alternative would result in the loss of their golden stool.
- The Kente cloth which has becoming a popular fashion statement was once worn only by Ashanti kings and reserved only for joyous occasions.
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- The Ashantis have a lot in common with Jamaicans including language and culture similarities owing to the slave trade that saw many Ghanaians taken to Jamaica and Barbados. The Jamaican flag is also said to be inspired by the Ashanti King’s Kente.