The Ashanti live in central Ghana in the Rainforests of West Africa approximately 150 miles away from the coast. The Ashanti are a major ethnic group of the Akans (Ashanti and Fanti) in Ghana, Ghana is a fairly new nation, barely more than 50 years old, and Ghana was previously called the Gold Coast. Much of the modern nation of Ghana was dominated from the late 17th through the late 19th century by a state known as Asante. Asante was the largest and most powerful of a series of states formed in the forest region of southern Ghana by people known as the Akan. Among the factors leading the Akan to form states, perhaps the most important was that they were rich in gold. It is now politically separated into four main parts. Ashanti is in the center and Kumasi is the capital.Ashati men The Ashanti are the largest tribe in Ghana and one of the few matrilineal societies in West Africa. The area of Ashanti is 9400 square miles with a population of about one million.
Akuaba or fertility dollThe Ashanti people have always been known as fierce fighters. The people of this tribe have a slogan: “If I go forward I die, If I go backward I die, Better go forward and die.” When the Ashanti tribe was faced with war, they used drums to signal the upcoming battle. The beat of these drums could be heard through the dense forest. The Ashanti have a special handshake, in which you hold your left hand out to shake hands. This comes from the Ashanti’s explanation that the left hand holds the shield, and the right hand holds the spears. So, in order to show your trust in someone, you put down your shield and therefore have your left hand free.
To the Ashanti, the family and the mother’s clan are most important. A child is said to inherit the father’s soul or spirit and from the mother a child receives flesh and blood This relates them more closely to the mother’s clan. The Ashanti live in an extended family. The family lives in various homes or huts that are set up around a courtyard. The head of the household is usually the oldest brother that lives there. The elders choose him. He is called either Father or House father and is obeyed by everyone.
The Ashanti religion is a mixture of spiritual and supernatural powers. They believe that plants, animals, and trees have souls. They also believe in fairies, witches, and forest monsters. There are a variety of religious beliefs involving ancestors, higher gods, or abosom, and ‘Nyame’, the Supreme Being of Ashanti. The Ashanti also practice many ceremonies for marriage, death, puberty, and birth.
Talking drumTalking drumThe golden stool is sacred to the Ashanti; today great pride in the Ashanti King lives on in the tradition of the Golden Stool. There is an elaborate legend surrounding it that is told by the old men of Ashanti. The golden stool is very carefully protected. No one has ever sat on it and since its arrival; it has not touched the ground. Ashanti ceremonyAshanti stoolAs an Ashanti symbol, the golden stool represents the worship of ancestors, well-being, and the nation of Ashanti. As a symbol of nationhood, and because if contains the sumsum or Soul of Ashanti, the Golden Stool is considered to be so sacred that no person whatsoever is allowed to sit upon it. It is kept with the strictest security and precaution; and is taken outside only on exceptionally grand occasions. Never must it come in contact with the earth or the ground. It is always lying on its own stool or on the skin of an animal such as the leopard. Ashanti’s have on many occasions made great sacrifices to defend it when its safety had been threatened. In 1896 they submitted to the deportation of their King, Prempeh I, rather than resort to a war in which they feared they might suffer defeat and risk the loss of the Golden stool. They deemed the loss of their King a small thing compared with the loss of their Golden Stool.
The village is a social as well as an economic unit. Everyone participates in the major ceremonies, the most frequent of which are funeral celebrations, which typically last several days. Attendance at funerals is normally expected from everyone in the village and expenditure on funerals is a substantial part of the household budget.
The Ashanti are noted for their expertise in a variety of specialized crafts. These include weaving, wood carving, ceramics, the reknown kente cloth and metallurgy. Of these crafts, only pottery making is primarily a female activity; the others are restricted to male specialists. Even in the case of pottery making, only men are allowed to fashion pots or pipes.African cloth
Ashanti manBark cloth was used for clothing before weaving was introduced. With weaving, there is cotton and silk. Women may pick cotton or spin materials into thread, but only men are allowed to weave. There are different patterns in weaving, each with its own name. Sometimes the pattern represents social status, a clan, a saying, or the sex of the one wearing it. Patterns are not always woven in the cloth. It can also be stamped on in many designs.
Kente cloth is only worn in the southern half of the country and – as distinct from other forms of traditional weaving – is reserved mainly for joyous occasions. Traditionally the Kente cloth is a festival cloth worn mainly during the annual and seasonal festivals, which are happy occasions. Today they are not only used for festive occasions but also during the rituals associated with the important events of life; for example, marriage, death, and religious worship. Therefore, it is quite appropriate for outsiders to wear it for religious and festive occasions.Kikogo game
Wood carving is divided into many branches, each with its own specialists. Among the major products are wooden sculptures of outstanding artistic quality and the talking-drums. The Ashanti fertility doll or “Akua ba” doll is commonly found in the homes of the Ashanti and given to the females in the village to bring them closer to the spirit of Fertility Gods.
The Ashanti play an African game called “Kikogo” which means transferring and refers to players moving markers that are usually beads or stones around a wooden board that has cups or depressions similar to that of an egg carton. The game is as popular as draughts (checkers) are in the western countries.
Source: African Crafts Market