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Culture and History of the Ashanti Region

1506 words (6 pages) Essay in Cultural Studies

18/05/20 Cultural Studies Reference this

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The Ashanti group, also known as the Asanti or Asante are an ethnic group located but not limited to the Ashanti region in modern Ghana. The Ashanti ethnic group can be found all over the world, Europe, The United States, and many more places, but in modern day Ghana the popularly reside in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo region. The official language of the Ashanti is Twi, but English is taught in schools, so most, if not all the of people have learned to speak the language.

Geography

The Ashanti region makes up for what was majorly known as the West African tropical rain forest. It is also involved in places with coasts, a six wildlife preserves five national parks, amongst dense forests and grasslands, rich farmland areas, and sitting right underneath the surface is what Ghana, or the Ashanti, are famously known for. Their vast deposits of industrial minerals, most notably vast deposits of gold. The Ashanti have a vast population, estimated to be 11 million people making up around 48 percent of the population of Ghana. Due to their large population, the major city Kumasi is known to be the capital of the Ashanti and is estimated to hold a third of the Ashanti region’s population 3.6 million people. In fact, the city of Kumasi is known to hold historical and ancestral ties with the Ashanti, as it was the capital of the royal capital of the Asante Kingdom.

 

Weather

In the Asanteregion, the temperatures range from 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit in season of winter, the months of late November, December and January, and reaching its peak at 93 degrees Fahrenheit in February. Around this time, there is almost no warning signs to show when spring begins, because the rains begin as early as in March.The rainiest month is June, with 225 mm (9 in); from mid-July to mid-September, the rains decrease a bit, and then they resume from mid-September to early November. In the south, rainfall reaches 1,400/1,500 mm (55/60 in) per year, and even more in some areas to the east of Lake Volta and to the south-west of Kumasi.

In the south, the sun does not shine very often; in fact, even in the short dry period, a bit of cloudiness can form, while from July to September, the sky is normally cloudy.

Subsistence or style of life

The Ashanti are fortunate with the topography and geography of the region in which they live. The land is fertile and is rich with minerals and agriculturally capable of growing many crops. According to the ashantekingdom.org, “The Ashanti are responsible for much of Ghana’s domestic food production and for the foreign exchange Ghana earns from cocoa, agricultural implements, gold, bauxite, manganese, various other industrial minerals, and timber. Kumasi metropolis and Ashanti region produces 96% of Ghana’s exports”. Historically, cocoa was the premier and dominant cash crop in Ghana, a main commodity the British found interest in the country, along with the “democratic” interest in gold found in Ghana. Other foodstuffs apart from cocoa found their place in the mouths of the people of Ghana, various vegetables and fruits such as plantain, maize, okra, oranges, and yam to name a few.

In the past, the vast populous were farmers living in villages creating their farms from plots of land they would have to cultivate from the parts of the forest, clearing the land by hand using tools such as the cutlass. The village was, and to some extent, still is a social economic unit. Everyone is considered family, where the vast majority participates in major ceremonies, such as funeral celebrations which typically last several days. According to Ghanaweb, a vertical portal publishing everything related to Ghana, sourcing their information from African Eldorado – Ghana from Gold Coast to Independence, attendance at funerals is normally expected from everyone in the village and expenditure on funerals is a substantial part of the household budget.

Religion

In the Ashanti ethnic group, many diverse religions are supported. Christianity is the dominant religion in amongst them, making up nearly 80 percent of the population. It is followed by the Islam at 16 percent, Traditional at 0.3, other religion around 0.7, and around 3 percent for those of no religion. Religious practices weren’t always so diverse as they are today. Most of the Ashanti in the past were mainly under the traditional religion, coalescing in the belief that there is one God, which they called “Onyame”. They also believed in lesser spirits or gods, who possessed fetish priests. The one thing they know that is certain death awaits everyone, and proper rights must be given to those who do pass away to assure their way to “Samande” Kingdom of the Death.

Rites of passage or relations between men and women

The rites of passage in the Ashanti has remained the same through the ages. The older brother and/or sister is meant to keep the peace in the house, given the Twi names Abusuapanin meaning “male head” and Obapaapanin “female head”, for male and female respectively. If a dispute broke in between the family, the two elders of the family would take it upon themselves to resolve the dispute, taking it to a higher authority of necessary, such as the local village chief. Puberty and marriage was also an important rite of passage between men and women in the Ashanti. According to Peter Herndon, in his study “Family Life Among the Ashanti”, he wrote about the puberty ceremony and what it means for them. He wrote, “The puberty rite was and is important as it signifies passage from childhood to adulthood in that chastity is encouraged before marriage.” In marriage relations, it is a custom that the family of man who is marrying the woman to accompany the marriage “proposal” with a bride price, giving various goods and money to accompany and signify the “price” he has paid to achieve marriage with his soon to be wife.

Colonial Era and Its Impact

 The colonial era of Ghana and the Ashanti Empire was a force to behold in the 16th century. The Ashanti had established their capital in Kumasi, and were soon unified as a powerful state, with political and military prowess under Chief Osei Tutu and his High Priest, Okomfo Anokye. Under Osei Tutu, gold mines were made to be the possessions of the royals and became the new currency standard in the empire. He also received the Golden Stool, the symbolic figure head of the Ashanti Empire, said to have ascended from the heavens and must never touch ground, as it carries the spirit of the Asante nation, the past, present, and the future. For nearly the entire century, the Ashanti traded gold with the Portuguese and were the most active trading partner, providing the thriving state with weapons and amassing their wealth, earning the name Gold Coast. However, near the end of the century, the Ashanti Empire had become less of a gold trading economy to a slave trading one, drawing conflicts with their neighboring tribes. These conflicts led to the eventual weakening of the Ashanti Empire, as they were fighting battles to expand their influence in the Gold Coast and defending their expanded land. The warfare soon expanded to the British, whom they fought a 50 years’ war from 1823 to 1873, losing the battle of attrition to the British, who seized temporary control of the royal capital Kumasi. The Ashanti fought back and won their capital back for a time in 1896 but were shortly conquered in 1900 for the final time and exiled the Chief Agyeman Prempeh “Asantehene”, annexing the empire to become the new Gold Coast colony in 1902 (Shillington 2004).

The impact of the colonial era was a large one, as it closed a chapter on one of the largest empires in the West Coast of Africa. Although the Ashanti Empires influence never ceased, but its rule has become more of a ceremonial aspect of the current political climate of Ghana.

Works Cited

 1) Allman, Jean. “African Eldorado: Ghana from Gold Coast to Independence. By John Carmichael. London: Gerald Duckworth and Company, 1993. Pp. Viii 224. £12.99 (ISBN 0-7156-2387-7).” The Journal of African History, vol. 35, no. 2, 1994, pp. 341–342., doi:10.1017/S0021853700026670.

2) “Ashanti Region.” Ashanti Region, www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/geography/ashanti_region.php.

3) Miaschi, John. “Major Ethnic Groups of Ghana.” WorldAtlas, Mar. 13, 2018, worldatlas.com/articles/ethnic-groups-and-tribes-in-ghana.html.

4) “Ashanti Region.” Ghana Districts – A Repository of All Districts in the Republic of Ghana,web.archive.org/web/20100828113236/http://www.ghanadistricts.com/region/?r=2&sa=1

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