Culture

The Dazzling Gold of the Asante Kingdom, Ghana

Compiled By Isaac Samuel & Pinky Khoabane

The Asante were the most powerful of the Akan-speaking peoples who settled in the forest region of modern-day Ghana between the 11th and 13th centuries. The separate Asante chiefdoms were united by Osei Tutu in the 1670s and in 1696 he took the title of Asantehene (king) and founded the Asante empire.

His nation rapidly became more powerful by forming alliances with neighboring peoples, leading to the formation of the Ashanti Union around 1700. He built a capital, Kumasi, and created the legend of the Golden Stool to legitimize his rule. The throne became the symbol of Ashanti authority. By 1750 the Asante Empire was the largest and most powerful state in the region. The empire’s wealth and prosperity was based on mining and trading in gold and trading in slaves. The Asante also became famous for woodcarvings, furniture, and their brightly coloured woven cloth, called ‘kente’. The kingdom continued to expand until, under King Osei Bonsu (1801-1824), Asante territory covered nearly all of present-day Ghana. Source: https://www.ascleiden.nl/content/webdossiers/asante-kingdom

18/19th Century Akan Jewellery from the Asante Kingdom, Ghana

Hairpin with gold-covered finial and porcupine quill
gold spherical beads with holes for suspension.
Pics: British Museum

Plate-Sized Gold Discs

Pectoral disc (19th century), Ghana, Asante peoples. Cleveland Museum of Art

The plate-sized gold discs are worn by the ‘soul washers’, the priests who look after the ruler’s soul.

Pair of sandals (1900–80), Ghana, Asante peoples. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Asante gold and leather caps (krobonkye) 18th century

Asante gold and leather caps (krobonkye)
18th cent.
-britishmuseum

Asante gold and leather caps were worn by top commanders of the Akan army, the larger one may have been worn by the asantehene (king) himself.

More reading:

Forests of Gold: Essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of Asante Ivor Wilks books.google.co.ug/books?id=GFm0m State and Society in Pre-colonial Asante T. C. McCaskie

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