By Jessica Tonganis and Alysha Schmidt
The Ashanti region (also known as Asante) in Ghana is located in the center of the country in the middle of a tropical rainforest. The area is approximately 9400 square miles. It shares a border with four regions in Ghana: Eastern region, Central region, Western region and Brong-Ahafo. The Ashanti region is subdivided into 27 districts in which the majority of the population live in the region’s capital city of Kumasi. Most of Ghana’s cocoa and gold mining industry reside within the Ashanti region. Known for it’s power, militarism and high discipline, the Ashanti kingdom has a powerful history.
The kingdom was founded by King Osei Tutu in the 18th century. Together with his mentor Okomfo Anokye, King Osei Tutu unified the states in the Ashanti region. The region represents this unification as well as the strength and spirit of the people through a symbol of a Golden Stool. It is believed that King Tutu commanded the Golden Stool to descend from the heavens. This stool has since been the stool to which all subsequent kings have been enthroned.
From the 17th to the late 19th century the country of Ghana was dominated by the Ashanti. It was the largest and most powerful state. In the height of its glory the Ashanti kingdom expanded. The state increased in size and gold trade, reduced its dependence on European imports, and established its own local industries. They developed their own administrative structure with an advisory council for the king and chiefs who ruled their villages.
Nevertheless, the 19th century was filled with challenges. The Ashanti empire had numerous wars with their enemies including the British. The British wanted to end the rule of the Ashanti in the coastal areas and trade routes. In 1824 King Osei Bonsu resisted the British’s influence on the country and defended it when they attacked. Unfortunately, the Ashanti empire was unable to prevent European colonization and lost its independence in 1874. The state eventually collapsed when King Prempeh the second was exiled to Elmina Castle and Seychelles. The Queen Mother of Ejisu Yaa Asantewaa led an uprising in 1901 and the state came into British protection and eventually became a region in the Gold Coast colony. The Ashanti empire continued and to this day there have been 16 kings who have ruled the Ashanti region. The current one being King Otumfuo Osei Tutu the second.
The King of the Asantes
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II ascended the Golden Stool (the royal, divine throne of the Asante Empire) on April 26, 1999 making him the 16th official Asantehene (King of the Asante). He is interestingly enough a direct descendant of the cofounder and first King of the Asante Kingdom from 1680 to 1717, Osei Tutu I. Osei Tutu II currently resides in the Manhyia Palace which is located in the city of Kumasi, the Asante Kingdom’s capital.
Learning about the King and his role was very interesting to us as it is a style of political power that is foreign to us as Canadians. One thing that quickly became very evident was the amount of respect and support he receives from the Asante peoples in Kumasi. When we were fortunate enough to be introduced to the King in March, we stood in a courtyard packed full of people cheering and trying their best to catch even the slightest glimpse of their beloved ruler. The people of Asante explain their admiration for the King in accordance with his unique style of leadership. He is said to place great importance on the peace and stability of good governance and that one of his first tasks as King of the Asantes was to encourage his people to seek a path of arbitration instead of litigation during various land and succession disputes that previously plagued the region. The King’s vision for his people encompasses education, health, and economical development which he is described as pursuing with great wisdom and tenacity of purpose. As a visionary, he is also invested in the preservation of the Asante’s cultural heritage while also combining tradition with modernization to reach his vision for the people.
From reading stories about the King to listening to various Ghanians speak of him, it is very clear that he is of great importance to not only the Asante Kingdom but the country of Ghana itself and that the future under his rule will bring peace and prosperity to the region and its country.
About Manhyia (2014). Retrieved from http://www.manhyiaonline.org/pages/index.php
Anglo Gold. (n.d.). History of the asante (ashanti) people. Retrieved from http://
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2014). Asante empire. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/37710/Asante-empire
Ghana Web. (2014). History of the ashanti kingdom. Retrieved from http://ghanaweb.com/
Government of Ghana. (2013). Ashanti region. Retrieved from http://www.ghana.gov.gh/ index.php/about-ghana/regions/ashanti