THE LEGENDRY ASANTE HOLY VILLAGE
Dr. Nana Adu-Pipim Boaduo FRC
Senior Lecturer: Faculty of Education, Department of Continuing Professional
Teacher Development, Walter Sisulu University: Mthatha Campus and Affiliated
Researcher: Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Centre for Development
Support, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein Campus: South Africa
This is a brief anthropological-sociological novel that takes you on an exploratory
journey through some of the traditional and cultural practices and beliefs of the
Asante speaking people of the central part of the Republic of Ghana. The author is an
Asante and grew up in all what has been presented here. However, some of the
accounts are traditional fireside stories told to him by his grand parents and some of
the elders of the Holy Village – Konkori. The account you are about to read is
presented using the story telling approach for easy absorption and enjoyment. If you
have need of in-depth reading about the traditional and cultural practices of the
Asantefo, you can get such information form the Kum-Ase [Spelt Kumasi by the
colonial authors and still stands] Cultural Centre.
Every group of people [call it tribe, race, native] has its own mythological stories. In
fact these mythological stories are the basis for their existence and make them what
they were, what they have been, what they are now and help them to portray their
uniqueness. Asantefo are not exception in this respect. Historically, Asantefo are
known to be war like, aggressive and have absolute feeling of pride and superiority
over other tribes in Ghana. Possibly, this might have changed due to multicultural
interaction among the different tribes in the Republic of Ghana. Initially,
intermarriage among other tribes was forbidden because Asantefo did not approve of
mixed-blood relations. They believed that mixed blood might reduce their boldness,
aggression and invincibility. This, comparatively, is not racism or tribalism because
Asantefo do not discriminate, as you will find out from Asantefo and hospitality. It is
exclusive cultural identification unique to them. However, times have changed and
almost everything has changed with it too.
History has it that during the colonial aggression in the then British Gold Coast, the
British Imperial Army could not break the Asantefo and take their Golden Stool. This
led to the British Army burning down all the thatched houses in Kum-Ase, the
Asantefo capital and taking their King, Nana Prempe (spelt Prempeh by the whites)
into exile in the Seychelles. This led to a popular uprising against the British Army
led by the queen mother of Edweso [Spelt Ejisu by the colonial authors and still
stands] Nana Yaa Asantewaa, whose asafo [traditional Asantefo army] resisted the
British Army at Edweso.
During war times Asantefo asafo never retreat. They had special military formation
that was even copied by the British Army. Ambushing the enemy and fighting from
all fronts was very typical of the Asantefo asafo. No matter how many of the army
were killed, another group surfaced to continue the fighting. This led to the
appellation „Asante Kotoko, wok um apem a apem beba‟. This literally means
„Asantefo, the porcupine warriors; if you kill one thousand another thousand replaces
the dead‟. This was comparable to the porcupine, which sheds its quills and replaces
There are various groupings among the Asantefo. The general term for all the
groupings is Akan. We speak the same language but there are various in
pronunciations and word formation but we understand each other perfectly well.
Among the various groupings are Twifo [found around Asumegya [Spelt Essumeja by
the colonial authors and still stands], Akyemfo, Kwaabrefo, Kwanwomafo, Sekyerefo,
Mampongfo, Akropongfo and Agonafo. Other Akan speaking groups are Fantefo and
the Nzemafo. The traditions and cultural activities of these groups are the same with
minor variations according to local inclinations, especially the Fantefo and the
To foreign students of anthropology and sociology, this book serves as a primary
source of information that you would need for further research. However, if you are a
research student then it will be necessary for you to tour all the five Asantefo
kingdoms capitals– Kokofu, Dwabeng, Bekwae, Nsuta and Mampong. If you happen
to be in Kum-Ase, visit the Manhyia Palace, Ebanmu at Adum, Bantama, Asafo and
The author hopes that this brief narrative will pave way for researchers to conduct
researches about the rich cultural heritage of the Asante Kingdom to expose this
heritage to the rest of the world.
Dr. Nana Adu-Pipim Boaduo FRC
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME KONKORI
Among the Asante ethnic group of Ghana every village name has an origin associated
with it. Konkori is no exception. Konkori: That is the name of the legendry Asante
Holy Village. It is situated in the forest, south east of the capital of the Asante
Kingdom, Kum-Ase (Obliterated spelling by the colonialists to Kumasi and this
stands up till today in all atlases). I was born in the Holy Village into the family of
Opanin Kwadwo Adu-Twum and Maame Amma Ampoma, popularly known as
Amma Nyame. I was born on Wednesday [Wukuada] and my soul name is Kwaku.
Pipim „Boaduo was the name given to me by my father. According to my father, I was
named after his father‟s brother. Asantefo have a tradition of naming children.
Children do not necessarily bear the surname of their father. Usually, children can bee
named after relatives – grandfather, grandmother, friends, loved ones, places and
events especially if they are born into it. Details of Asantefo naming ceremony is
under naming of children.
Konkori, the name of the Holy Village has puzzled me since I became a young man. I
could not relate it to any of the concepts of the Asante language. The spoken language
is Twi, which is one of the general branches of Akan language groups. The Akan
language group comprise Asante Twi, Asante Akuapem, Asante Akyem, Asante
Kwabere, Asante Sekyere, Fante, Denkyera and Nzema. Linguistically, all these
languages have one main stem and a speaker of one understands the other. The major
differences are in the spellings, intonations and pronunciation of words. While sitting
by the fire one evening I asked my grandfather about the meaning of the name of the
Holy Village, Konkori. He smiled and directed me to a stool near to where he was
sitting and told me to sit down, which I did with respect and humility. He drew me
closer to his stool, run his right hand fingers through my hair. He began to narrate the
episode about the name Konkori.
According to him, Konkori is not an Asante word. The originators coined a derivative
from sounds. Which sounds? I asked. He cleared his throat and continued.
“Where this village is situated stood a mighty tree called Tweneboa. It was so huge
that its buttresses formed open spaces that looked like rooms. The canopy of the tree
provided ample shade and the tropical sunshine, during the Sun‟s journey from east to
west each day could not penetrate to the grounds under the tree. The forests
surrounding this area teamed with all sorts of game. The then Otumfo Asantehene
special hunters used the surrounding forests as their hunting grounds for game for
him. They were always bountiful - apem, asammienu, bayere, mankani, mmako,
afasie, asedua and gyeene - these were the major crops that were cultivated for
Otumfo Asantehene‟s kitchen. The surrounding land was very fertile. All kinds of
crops grew well and the harvests were always bountiful.
The hunters and farmers of Asantehene used to commute to Konkori from Kum-Ase a
distance of about 16 kilometres. Tweneboa-Ase [Under the Tweneboa tree] was the
name given to this place by the farmers and hunters who used to congregate and wait
for other farmers and hunters during their return journey to Kum-Ase. This place was
a crossroads from the north to the south and from the east to west.‟ At this point my
grandfather looked up into the calm night sky, pointed to a bright star and said „it is
getting late. Go to bed. We‟ll continue the story tomorrow”.
I got up and went to bed. I could not fall asleep. I was thinking about how the night
and the morning would come, then the quick passing of the day so that the evening
would set in and give me the opportunity to get myself sitting next to my grandfather
by the fireside for home to continue the story. Finally, I dosed into sleep. When I
woke up the morning sun was already shinning brightly throwing the shadows of the
trees surrounding our house waking tall along the walls and the roofs. There were few
isolated clouds in the otherwise completely blue sky.
When the evening came, I was quick to remind my grandfather about the promise to
continue with the story. We were seated by the fireside earlier than usual. When
grandfather took his seat he started to ask me questions about what he told me the
previous night. I gave him accurate narrative which made him very happy and
commented that I was going to become an excellent story teller in future because of
my excellent memory. He sent me to his bedroom to fetch the tobacco pipe and a
piece of amber to light his pipe already filled with smashed tobacco. After puffing a
few mouthfuls of pungent tobacco smoke, which made me to cough unceasingly, he
laughed and commented, „You can‟t smoke. Anybody who coughs after inhaling
tobacco smoke has weak lungs and that is not good for a smoker‟. After saying this he
began with the second part of the story about the origin of the name of Konkori, the
„At that spot‟, he pointed at the centre of the village, „where that bridge is was the
most popular rest stop for the farmers and hunters on their return journey to Kum-
Ase. The Tweneboa tree had giant buttresses, which extended in all directions. The
hugeness of the extended buttresses created miniature rooms capable of
accommodating six or more people. The huge canopy provided ample shade for
everybody under the Tweneboa tree. The hunters used to make fire from dead wood
to smoke their game and prepare their lunch before they set out for Kum-Ase.
„Any time they congregate here they talk about their farming and hunting experiences
which were shared to help each of them improve and perfect their trade thereby
making it possible to perform better every time as farmers and hunters of Asantehene.
Since the Tweneboa-Ase was the only spot they all gather and steam to Kum-Ase in a
convoy, they had a special way to remind late comers to hurry to join the convoy on
their return journey.
„The name of the leader of the Asantehene group was Akate. To make sure that all the
farmers and hunters have gathered he would make a roll call. When it is found out
that some of the entourage have not yet arrived, they had a way of sounding a gong to
remind them to hurry and join the group. Akate made a beautiful club from a piece of
wood and used it as a hammer to hit one of the hanging buttresses of the Tweneboa
tree making the sound konkondi. The sound echoed into the tranquil forest valleys of
the Ahyiresu, Ananawene, and Pawora and Trede rivers. Farmers and hunters who
have not yet joined the group hurried to the spot to join the convoy. The konkondi
sound became a guiding clock for late hunters and farmers to hurry to Tweneboa-Ase.
Later we assigned a meaning to the sound –we depend on the konkondi sound to find
our way to safety. However, regular use and some sort of obliteration by the white
man who could not pronounce the sound changed the spelling to Konkori. That is how
this name came about.
„Later the hunters and farmers started to raise some shelter around the Tweneboa tree
starting the formal settlement of what we know now as Konkori, the Holy Village.
The building of the shelters came to the attention of the elders of Asantehene who
sent a team of other elders and traditional surveyors to the area to make
recommendation for permanent settlement. Asantefo do not build settlements for the
sake of them. They always notice of special features that are considered before
selecting a spot for development as a settlement.
First, they consider how easy the selected spot could be defended in case of attack by
rival tribes. Second, there should be ample supply of water for domestic and other
uses. Third, the surrounding land should be fertile for farming. Fourth, there should be
a large expanse of land with game for the hunters to practise their trade. Fifth, the spot
should be easily reached by footpath to enable trades bring their ware during market
days. Konkori had all the features required to qualify for settlement. It was on the
highway from Kum-Ase to Oguaa (now Cape Coast). It was just 16 kilometres
southeast of the Asante capital Kum-Ase. It was near to Bekwae one of the five states
of Asante Kingdom. Bosomtwe, the only large natural lake in the Asante Kingdom is
not far. Obuo-Ase, the richest gold deposit town of the ancient Asante Kingdom is
within a walking distance.
Otumfoɔ , the Asantehene was satisfied when the report reached his palace. He called
all his elders and informed them about the new settlement. He selected some of his
militant hunters, experienced farmers and a few ordinary people to settle officially at
Konkori. Akate was appointed the first chief. He ruled so well that his farmers and
hunters became the most treasured and cherished by Otumfo, the Asantehene.‟ My
grandfather turned to me, smiled and bid us goodnight.
THE STRUCTURAL DESIGN OF KONKORI – THE HOLY VILLAGE
Konkori is known as the Holy Village because traditions and customs are kept tight
and observed without the least deviation. The Holy Village is built with calculated
precision. Unlike the scattered types found elsewhere in Africa, it is a nucleated type
of settlement. The reason must be that generally, Asantefo do not live in scattered
settlements because they are warlike and do not want to live in isolation for fear of
attack by neighbouring rival tribes. They usually settle in places that can be easily
defended in case of attack. In the centre of the Holy Village are the palaces of the
Chief and the Queen mother. Ample spaces around the palaces called apatase have
been reserved for recreation and meetings. The women usually use the space near to
the Queen mother‟s palace and the men use the one near to the Chief‟s place. People
meet here for a number of reasons. For instance after a hard days work, men and
women meet here to chat, play oware and dame. During special traditional holidays,
young and elderly men meet to play osoode and ntwiisi. At the Queen mother‟s
palace, elderly and young women meet to teach the youth traditional dirges and
practice singing nnwonkro. Surrounding the palaces are the houses of the Chief‟s
regiment of the asafo. Following that are the immediate royals of the Chief and the
Queen mother and then the Council of elders. The last lines of houses are the ordinary
inhabitants of the village and finally enveloping all these are the rest of the asafo who
fight off rival tribes and other enemies in the case of attack. At the outskirts of the
Holy Village is a very large clearing made for a market place. The usual market days
are the same every week. These are Sundays and Thursdays. Traders from far and
near come in each of the market days to trade their wares. The asafo members are
kept alert during these eventful days.
The structural appearance of houses in the holy village are unique and reflect the
advanced structural engineering feat of the Asante ethnic group. My grandfather told
me more about Konkori, the Holy Village. According to him, the location of this
historical village boasts of several memorable events. The location of the Holy
Village is about 16 kilometres southeast of Kum-Ase. It is a typical traditional
settlement made up of locally built thatched houses. The walls of the houses are first
made of stems of wooden trees. A skeleton made of palm branches and twigs,
especially babadua are tied tightly together using special forest ropes. Popular among
these ropes are mmatatwene and bowayee. Where these two are not available, mfea
and domire are used instead. Rectangular spaces are left between the twigs. When the
skeleton of the whole building is completed, the rectangular spaces are filled with
carefully mixed soil and water mortar. The twigs are buried in the mortar giving it a
The finishing tactics for the walls and floors of the building are an art of its own. The
mortar is used as a plastering agent all over the building and smoothed with the palm
to give it a smooth shining finish. After the plastered walls are dried special red soil
locally, called ntwoma is soaked in water and smeared on the walls and the floors.
These houses are locally called tadan, nnuadan or kwadan. Kwadan is a derivative
from kwa and dan. The houses were able to stand the onslaught of termites and the
scorching tropical sun as well as the torrential tropical rainstorm. Before the white
man brought cement this was, the most popular way houses were built. Even up to
date houses are built this way in the Holy Village.
The roof of a house has a central spine that goes through the top of the entire building.
The skeleton of the roof is made of the strongest twigs. Usually, babadua was always
the most popular on which the daha is attached and tied together. Houses in the Holy
Village are not roofed with grass as it is in many parts of traditional Africa. The
roofing of the houses was done in two ways. The most popular and easy one is the use
of daha. Daha is equivalent to the white man‟s iron sheets. It is specially made from
the leaves of the raffia palm. The frond is taken from the raffia palm branches. Daha
made by a specialist is so tight that no amount of rainwater could penetrate. Should an
amateur make it then several of them would have to be piled on top of each other to
Another method of roofing the house is the use of bamboo stem. The stems are
measured to a certain length and cut open. All the inner locks are broken away to
allow for the flow of rainwater to drip down. They are then piled alternatively with
one opening facing up and the other facing down to close the space between two
A peculiar characteristic of the houses is their rectangular shape. Most indigenous
Africa traditional houses are of the roundervel shape and many clustered together with
short walls decorated with different colours of mixed ntwoma and other prepared
solutions from the barks of different types of trees as paint. This was the time before
the white man brought paint.
The house has several divisions and each division has responsibility. The entrance to
the house after opening the door is called ntworonomu. Visitors are required to knock
and wait here until someone in the house responds that the visitor should enter the
aduho. Aduho is a big opening at the centre of the house serving as a general hall.
One section of the four sides of the inner part of the house is open to the aduho. This
is patoso. This is where the gathering of the household is moved to when it is sunny or
raining. The elderly men of the household use it as their dining hall. Rooms are
reserved for kitchen that is egyaare, bathroom or adwaree.
The adwaree is a place in the house where every member of the household has to
visit, at least once a day. However, the women are obliged to visit this place twice a
day. Early in the morning, the woman of the house boils water, pours it in dwaresen,
and takes it to the bathroom for the man of the house to wash. In the evening, the
same ritual is repeated. For the women and girls washing early in the morning after
finishing the morning household chores and late in the evening are compulsory.
Failure to do this carries a heavy penalty. For the boys washing once a day, especially
in the evening before bedtime is enough. Failure to do this carries a derogatory
nickname efiiamoaa equivalent to dirty pig.
Egyaare is a place where only women in the household are supposed to be seen
regularly because that is where they attend to their daily chores of preparing the
family delicacies. It is kept very clean at all times and the bokyia on which the fire is
made for the food to be cooked are kept washed with ntwoma every morning.
According to Asante custom men are not supposed to be found in the egyaare except
when they bring home game and go to the kitchen to deposit. When there is nobody to
send to bring ember for the pipe then men are allowed to go to the kitchen. Otherwise,
men who are frequently found in the egyaare are branded as kotobonku. Kotobonku is
a derogatory word that can lead to a series of crises if used for a man.
Egyaare serves many purposes in the household. A space is reserved for the fireplace,
then ahinase where drinking water is kept in a traditionally made earthenware pot
locally called ahina. Normally the drinking water for the whole household is kept
inside the ahina. Inside the ahyina is smoked mmefee, the husk from the palm fruit.
Mmefee is obtained from the palm fruit after it is boiled, pounded and the oil
squeezed out of it. It is dried. The dried mmefee is used for many purposes. The first
one is that it is used to start fire. When a small piece is put inside ahyina, an ember
placed on it, and the ahyina is covered, the smoke from the mmefee leaves very
palatable small inside the ahyina. After the ahyina is cleaned and filled with drinkable
water and kept at the egyaare, it gets so cold that it is comparable to modern
refrigerator. This was the way Asantefo used to get cold drinking water.
Another section of the egyaare is reserved as a fireplace where the traditional stove
called bokyia is placed for the cooking of the household meals everyday. The bokyia
can be made in different ways. The most common way is that three earthen bricks of
the same height are place in a triangular form. The spaces between them are filled
with firewood and lighted to serve as stove for the cooking. The second method is to
place two earthen bricks on their sides and firewood can be placed from both sides
and lighted to serve as stove. The last one is to place two of the earthen bricks on their
sides and close one end and leave the end where fire wood can be placed and lighted
to serve as stove for cooking. Every morning the ashes are removed and the bokyia
smeared with fresh ntwoma to give it a red-like shinny look ready for use for the day.
The rest of the rooms in the house are used as bedrooms. The bedrooms can be single
or double. The double rooms are called pie-ne-asa. The asa is the sitting room and the
pie is normally the bedroom for the house head.
The surroundings and the inside of the house are kept perfectly tidy every time by the
young women and girls. The girls normally do the afternoon and evening sweeping as
well as weeding while the elderly women do the morning sweeping.
CULTURAL WONDERS OF THE SURROUNDING FORESTS
The people of the Holy Village boast of many natural geographical features. These
features are found in the surrounding forests. These forests have been given names.
The wonderful waterfall of Ahyiresu River is located in the Ahyiresu Forest. It
cascades down a two-hundred metre cliff at the edge of the Ahyiresu plateau. No
matter the severity of the drought, Ahyiresu River never dried up. The source of the
River has a virgin forest cover that has never been tampered with by modern
civilization. The reason is that in the Ahyiresu Forest resides a wonderful Goddess
called Nomoafowaa. According to the legend told to us Nomoafowaa, the Goddess
sits on a rock stool with her breasts over a stone basin, which drips water into the
basin that nourishes the Ahyiresu River. The Nomoafowaa forest is a forbidden
territory and nobody goes into the forest. The legend has it that anybody who ventures
into the Nomoafowaa forest gets lost forever. It is said that only the appointed
caretaker and some elected elders with the permission of the traditional priest are able
to get into the forest every seven years to present the seventh-year offering. The
offering, according to the legend, is made up of a ram and a sheep. As a result, the
Nomoafowaa forest teams with sheep but everybody is forbidden to touch them let
alone killing one. It is said that if the Nomoafowaa Goddess, does not accept the
offering by the time the caretaker, the elders and the traditional priest return, the
offering would be waiting at the Chief‟s palace. That is a bad omen and something
has to be done before a tragedy befalls the Holy Village.
The mysterious Nomoafowaa forest lies about fourteen kilometres to the east of the
Holy Village. The nearby villages are Trede, Pakyi and Agyamesu. There is a small
portion of the forest that have been reserved for the traditional medicine practitioners
to visit and collect herbs, roots, barks, seeds and flowers for their trade. In this part of
the forest are trees and twigs, which are believed to have supernatural powers. A tree
by name Odii and a twig by name Homakyem. It is only the renowned traditional
medical doctors, who after performing their rituals, and are able to go near these
supernatural plants and collect the barks, seeds and roots to prepare their concoctions
to treat illnesses. The traditional medical doctors usually tell stories about the Odii
tree and the Homakyem twig. They say that if the ritual is not performed and the Odii
tree is hit with a machete, it bleeds human blood. According to them the Homakyem
can change into objects if mistakenly cut into two and in the end joins again. They say
it disappears whenever it grows very old.
Some of the legends are that if any of the traditions of the Nomoafowaa Forest is
violated misfortune befalls the entire area, not only the Holy Village but also all the
surrounding villages. The misfortunes can range from serious outbreak of epidemics
like nkonkon [whooping cough], kwata [leprosy] and nsamanwa [tuberculosis].
Should this happen, the Chief summons the elders and the traditional priests at his
palace and ask them to find a way to pacify the Nomoafowaa Goddess and abate the
Everyday spirituality is ingrained in the cultural and customary traditions of Asantefo.
Traditionally speaking, Asantefo do not have tribal marks of any sort on any part of
the body. In the traditional understanding of Asantefo if any, Asante bears a mark on
the cheek, forehead or any part of the body, it is frown upon. Asantefo believe that a
person should keep every part of the body intact in order to be able to give account to
the Creator on their return after completing their earthly mission. Any mark of any
sort, to Asantefo, is a mutation and would be held accountable by the Creator. Despite
this most Asantefo have marks on their body especially on the cheeks, the joints of the
body, the centre of the forehead and at the corners of the mouth. These marks have
their purposes. They are either medical or for specific occasion.
Medical in the sense that among Asantefo certain diseases and illnesses such as
convulsion, headache and joint pains are treated with ashes or medical tree barks and
roots which are rubbed into the skin after making small incisions. Such treatments
bring instant relief and the ailment is brought under control and consequently healing
The occasional one has various connotations. One of it is that any time an Asante
woman loses a baby consecutively, especially through stillbirth and through normal
infant mortality, the belief is that it is the same child who delights in playing tricks
with the mother by going and coming. Asantefo believe that such mischievous
activity should be prevented; and to prevent the mischievous baby from constantly
molesting the mother in this way, the midwife who is always the experienced Asante
woman in delivering children impose on the new born baby funny names she can
think of as soon as the baby is born. Names such as Donko [slave], Sumina [dumping
ground], and Asaaseasa [space for grave is finished], Bosuo [dew] and Binka or
Yinka [this one should remain] are examples of children who have been coming and
Another way of making sure that the same child desists from its deliberate wickedness
of coming and going is to make marks on the cheeks or around the corners of the
mouth. Asantefo disdain marks on the body. Making them on the child is tantamount
to declaring the baby a slave or outcast. It is believed that if marks are made on the
newly born baby whose mother has experienced stillbirths, the baby will feel ashamed
to go back.
Asantefo usually do not let stillbirths issues lie unattended to. They consult with the
chief traditional priests and medicine men to find solution to continuous stillbirths or
child mortality. When children are born after such events and they are marked, they
are also given names such as Bagyina [one specifically catered to survive]. With such
funny name and the marks on the baby, there is no way to escape again. Some of the
traditional priests even make sure the hair of the child is never combed so that it
grows naturally braided. This is called mpesempese. Among Asantefo, anybody who
walks about with mpesempese on the head is easily identified as ntoba [the child who
has been bought]. Asantefo believe in reincarnation and ascribe special attention to
children who are born and seen to be the reincarnate of elders who have been in their
Among Asantefo, everything that the Creator has created is significant. Both young
and old have dignity. Everybody is accountable for his or her actions. All people must
behave themselves to avoid penalty of any sort. Spirituality, according to Asante‟s
mythology begins during pregnancy and never ends. Therefore, Asantefo treat one
another and even strangers with respect, love, concern and dignity. Hospitality is
ingrained in the blood cells of every Asante. Spirituality is lived in the daily lives of
every Asante. It is expressed in concrete action. It manifests in the desire to refrain
from offending the ancestors and to attempt positively to remember them and make
them part of their daily lives. I recall many times that my grandfather mentioned the
ancestors in almost everything they did. The mentioning of the ancestors refers to the
effortless daily interactions among Asantefo and their relatives, dead or alive.
Libation is the major medium of contact with the dead.
Among Asantefo hyԑbrɛ and nkrabea are two important concepts. Every Asante
believes that destiny is dual, that hyebre is self-imposed while nkrabea is divinely
imposed. My grandfather was not literate but the distinction I got from him,
nevertheless, made me to believe and understand the double concept of destiny he
gave as hyebre and nkrabea to be extremely relevant in the daily living of Asantefo.
The significant thing about the distinction is that when, as a child, I do something
wrong, it is not attributed to nkrabea which will make God, the Creator responsible,
but instead to hyebre which places the onus of my action squarely on my shoulders. In
other words, wrong doings are not attributed to nkrabea since only God the Creator is
responsible and assigns everybody‟s nkrabea. Asantefo have firm believe that God the
Creator knows why He created human beings and for that matter has a specific duty
for everybody to perform. Unfortunately, once born human being acquires different
habits, which, in most cases sways him or her from nkrabea. Hyebre, on the other
hand is taken to mean the acquired habits of man, which has nothing to do with
nkrabea. Any time one confronts series of problems these are blamed on hyebre and
God the Creator is not made responsible of what is happening.
In the company of my grandfather, I learned at first hand the deep values of
community life and of friendship. He never missed occasions to visit a sick person in
the community. He would always attend funerals, naming ceremonies and occasions
of initiations of girls and boys at puberty. When cases were to be settled before the
chief and the elders he made it a point to attend.
At times, my grandfather became irascible due to human weakness. He would not
harbour a grudge against anybody without telling him or her about his dissatisfaction.
This spirit of forthrightness was often misunderstood, especially when he drew hasty
conclusions from false premises. All these added to his uniqueness.
HOSPITALITY AMONG ASANTEFO
My grandfather was extremely hospitable. I clearly recall at one time his benevolence
nearly caused him his marriage. The wife wondered where all the food that had been
accumulated for the lean season had gone to. My grandfather‟s conviction was that
“keep doing good, the ancestors want it that way. According to him food that is not
shared with others will finish anyway. You will be satisfied to a point where you
cannot eat any more. If you had not shared your food with others, how can you, in
fairness, share your problems or even joy with them?” He used to emphasise that to
live a human and happy life you need conversation; you need to be related to others.
In trouble, he used to say, you do not know who will come to your aid. As a result,
Asantefo usually express such philosophy in proverbs such as “Wo nko wo did a wo
nko wone”. [Literally meaning If you eat alone you do not expect another to
accompany you when nature calls especially during the night].
In the company of my grandfather, I learned at first hand the deep values of
community life of friendship. He never missed occasions to visit a sick person in the
community. He would always attend funerals, naming ceremonies and occasions of
initiations at puberty. When cases were to be settled before the chief and the elders, he
made it a point to attend.
At times my grandfather became irascible due to human weakness. He could not
harbour a grudge against anybody in the community without telling them about his
dissatisfaction. This spirit of forthrightness was often misunderstood by the
community especially when he drew hasty conclusions from false premises. All these
added to his uniqueness that made me to hold his views in high esteem.
Any stranger who enters the Holy Village readily gets company to stay with. Families
are kind, united and extremely loving. Strangers are highly respected and catered for
in terms of traditional expectations and that a stranger‟s welfare is the responsibility
of the whole village. In the morning, afternoon and evening, food would be pouring in
from every nook and corner of the village to the house where the stranger is living.
Hospitality is ingrained in the blood of Asantefo. However, Asantefo do not usually
entertain cross-cultural marriages not because of tribalism. In fact, this is not
contradictory to the concept hospitality. It has historical underpinnings. Asantefo are
very bold warriors and believed that cross-cultural marriages may genetically
introduce cowardly into the minds and hearts of their men. That was the significance
of the abhorrence of cross-cultural marriages with other tribes. But this has changed
TRADITION AND CUSTOMS
5.1. Naming of children
Like any other tribes in any part of the world children are given names when they are
born. Among the Asantefo the day a baby is born becomes the first name of that child
before another name is added to it. Everyday of the week has both male and female
naming versions. Monday born babies are called Kwadwo for boys and Adwoa for
girls. Tuesday born babies are called Kwabena for boys and Abenaa for girls.
Wednesday babies are called Kwaku for boys and Akua for girls. Thursday born
babies are called Yaw for boys and Yaa for girls. Friday born babies are called Kofi
for boys and Afia [Afua] for girls. Saturday born babies are called Kwame for boys
and Amma for girls while babies born on Sunday are called Akwasi for boys and
Akosua for girls. You can, therefore, tell on which day an Asante child was born from
the first name.
Family names were not important in this case because Asantefo did not name their
children according to family names. Babies born are given names on the seventh day
after their birth. The process of naming an Asante child is very elaborate. All the close
relatives are informed in advance. Preparations for the naming ceremony depend on
the baby is a girls or boy.
Generally, twins are not given second names at all. According to the Asante custom,
twins come with their names. A twin boy is called Ata while the girl is called Ataa
before the day they are born is added. Among the Asantefo, twins are considered
special gift from God and are revered by giving them some sort of shrine called
abamoo. This shrine is prepared for them and purified every fortieth day. This is
referred to as abamoo so to. This ceremony falls on the last Fridays before the
fortieth day or there about. Ntaafo [twins] are not supposed to eat certain foods and
meat throughout their lives. Typical of the meat is that of a wild rat and for food they
are not supposed to eat the first harvested yam or any food of the first harvest, except
it has been put on the abamoo. On such Fridays, the twins wake up early in the
morning, dress up in traditional white robe decorated with locally prepared clay
powder called hyire symbolising the beginning of the celebration of the day. Mashed
yam is prepared with three boiled eggs. One is put on the shrine after the elder of the
family has poured libation and requested the souls of the ancestors to protect the twins
and all the members of the family. The twins are given the mashed yam and the boiled
eggs symbolising the end of the celebration.
The naming of baby boys and girls are different. The preparation for naming a baby
boy include a machete symbolising hard labour and toil on the farm, a locally brewed
alcohol called apeteshie symbolising sorrow and pain during one‟s journey through
life that must be endured, a basket symbolising the carrying of burdens of life, a piece
of loin cloth symbolising the covering of the nakedness of the body, few tubers of
yam, palm oil, onion, salt, pepper and a locally made plate called apotԑyewa a few
eggs all symbolising hospitality that the baby is supposed to show people both
strangers and relatives.
Like the ceremony for the twins, it starts early in the morning before the house is
swept clean on the seventh day of the baby‟s birth. On that day the elderly man in the
family [ or the elderly woman if there is no man] gets up with the folks in the family
household, holds the baby in his or her arms, chants for a while calling the spirits of
the ancestors of the family, pours libation and then give the name to the baby. To end
the ceremony, the first finger is dipped into the apeteshie the locally brewed alcohol
and rubbed on the tongue of the baby to suck symbolising sorrow and difficulties to
be encountered in the journey of life. The baby is handed to the mother. This
concludes the first part of the ceremony.
During the mid morning the second part of the naming ceremony begins. Mashed yam
[ɛ tɔ ] is prepared and mixed with palm oil and decorated with boiled eggs. The food
is shared among the members of the family and this ends the most important part of
the ceremony. For the rest of the day gifts pour in from relatives and loved one in the
For girls, the process is the same except that after the name is given, a locally made
mat from straw [kete] is put in the centre of the house [aduho] and the baby placed on
it and covered with a basket used to carry harvested food crop from the farm. A
broom, a machete and are placed outside of it symbolising the duties, toils and
responsibilities the baby girl would have to go through during her life‟s journey.
5.2. Initiation into adulthood
Konkori boasts of its century old tradition of female initiation called bragro. All girls
who reach puberty are initiated into adulthood. It is a very special occasion. Any
young woman who does not go through the initiation ceremony before falling
pregnant brings taboo and disgrace to the family, the Holy Village and the clan. This
violation is taken very seriously by the King, the Queen Mother and the elders of the
Young men who reach puberty also go through similar initiation ceremony. However,
the process of initiation among girls and boys is totally different. According to
tradition whatever happens during the initiation is not supposed to be discussed at all
outside the initiation school. The initiates are supposed to swear an oath to keep the
secrecy of the initiation.
During the initiation boys are attended to by the elderly men with good moral values
while the young women are also attended to by elderly women with good moral
values. Some of the ordinary information about what takes place at the initiation
school include how to be fathers and mothers, taking care of families, hunting and
warfare for boys and house keeping and family care for girls. The boys are also taught
how to attend to a woman in labour. The reason is that should a pregnant woman
suddenly goes into labour while with the husband far away from help, he would be
able to see the wife go through delivery safely.
5.3. Female initiation: elaborate tradition worth maintaining
It is the tradition among the people of the Holy village that before a girl is initiated
into adulthood she should have seen her first menstrual period. When this happens the
girl should inform her mother who in turn informs the grandmother or the elderly
woman of the family in case there is no grandmother. The grandmother arranges a
meeting with the Queen Mother in the Holy Village to meet to inform her about the
event. When this is done and the Queen Mother is aware about the menstrual news of
the girls there is no breaking of the taboo called kyiribra should the girl fall pregnant
before the actual initiation. In fact, falling pregnant before the Queen Mother is
informed about the girl‟s menstrual period is a taboo punishable by death or at best by
deportation from the society.
Once the Queen Mother has been informed the family of the girl gets prepared and set
a date for the official initiation ceremony of the young woman. A few days before the
ceremony, the girl is called to the Queen Mother‟s palace and thoroughly examined
by selected experienced elderly woman to be sure that the girl is not pregnant. The
evening before the initiation day the family of the girl inform the elderly women of
the Holy Village who prepare to take part in the initiation ceremony.
Early in the morning of the initiation day, at about four o‟clock in the morning elderly
women gather in front of the house of the initiate and sing initiation songs
[brannwom] accompanied by the beating of the traditional drum called donno. This
goes on until the day breaks. Before the first part of the ceremony ends, the elderly
women throng the main street of the Holy Village with brannwom and end at the
house of the initiate before they disperse and prepare for the afternoon section.
Before the afternoon meeting the young girl is dressed in the richest robe that the
family can afford usually in the traditional kente cloth always leaving the jumping
breast outside adorned with melted shear butter cream called nkuto. At about nine
o‟clock, the initiate is paraded at a selected central spot of the main street of the Holy
Village. Sitting in state at this spot is comparable to advertising a product in modern
times where the initiate is introduced to the public for possible suitors. If the initiate
has been a disciplined girl in the village gifts pour in from every home. Normally
most of the gifts are supposed to come from the possible suitor. At times there had
been instances where more than one suitor sends presents. This competition is always
very fierce and even leads to family feud due to competition for the girl for wife.
At about midday, the initiate is carried on the back of one of her best friend to the
river side to be traditionally cleansed. The cleansing is done by selected elderly
women. During the cleansing, tradition has it that the elderly women teach the initiate
how to wash her body thoroughly and how to keep clean during her menstrual period.
After the cleansing the initiate is once again carried home. While at home she is once
again dressed in new clothes and adorned with all the jewellery that the family could
afford. The initiate is then escorted through the main streets of the Holy village
accompanied by the beating of the donno and the singing of the brannwom.
While this event is going on some selected women would be in the house of the
initiate preparing the initiation meal. Usually this is made of mashed yam mixed with
palm oil and dressed with eggs. All this time, the initiate had not had any meal.
Tradition has is that if the initiate had been a truant in the village the elderly women
deliberately use this occasion to keep her hungry and do not perform the anoka early.
Before the initiate could take in food, the selected elderly would have to perform the
anoka. This is a ritual and the belief is that it opens both the mind and the eyes of the
initiate to the complexities of adult life.
The anoka ritual starts like this. Two young children, one boy and one girl, are
selected from among all the children gathered at the ceremony. The selection is
always based on the ease with which the children were delivered while their mothers
were in labour. It is believed that if children whose mothers had difficulties in
delivering them are not selected for fear that the same omen would be passed on to the
initiate during delivery. Once the selection of the children is made, the initiate is told
to hold the hands of the children, the boy in the right hand and the girls in the left
hand. Before the anoka starts, a cloth canopy is made to hide the initiate, the two
children and the elderly women who would perform the ceremony and a plate of the
mashed yam and some of the eggs, dry pieces of different types of meat and
vegetables are placed together in the cloth canopy.
While the singing and drumming were going on, some selected group of elderly and
young women would be assigned to prepare the initiation meal. This is usually made
of mashed yam mixed with palm oil and dressed with dozens of boiled and shelled
eggs. From the morning up to this time, the initiate has had no opportunity to take in
food. Tradition has it that if the initiate has displayed stubbornness and disrespect
before her initiation, the elderly women use this occasion to starve her. Before the
initiate could eat anything, the anoka ceremony has to be performed. During this
process, a respected elderly woman in the village with successful child bearing and
rearing history is selected to perform the anoka ceremony. This ritual, it is believed,
opens the eyes and minds of the initiate to the complexities of adult life and as a
future wife and mother.
The anoka ceremony is performed like this: Two young children, one boy and one girl
are selected from the children gathered at the ceremony. The selection is based,
according to the traditional selection criteria, among other things the ease with which
those children were delivered and the kind of upbringing the children are undergoing.
It is believed that if children whose mothers had difficulty during delivery are selected
for the ceremony, the initiate may experience the same problem in future. When the
selection has been made, the initiate is told to hold the hands of the two selected
children, the boy is held in the right hand and the girl in the left.
A locally made earthen plate called apotԑyewa containing a bit of selected dry meat
pieces including a piece of elephant meat and different items of vegetables and food
are placed in the apotoyewa. Before the anoka is performed, the initiate is covered in
a cloth-canopy with the two children and the selected elderly woman alone inside.
Tradition has it that the elderly woman will pick a piece of elephant meat symbolising
the fact that the initiate should not be wasteful despite the fact that there is plenty of
everything in the household. It also symbolises that the woman is the buttress of the
family who should know and look carefully after everything in the family the
elephant. After that the initiate is given the fruit of a ripe hot pepper to bite and chew
signifying pain and suffering experienced during adult life and in marriage. Finally,
the initiate is given a boiled egg and instructed to swallow it whole without chewing.
This symbolises the womb and ovules through which the initiate would conceive her
children. If the egg is bitten open in the process, it is bad omen and the traditional
belief is that the initiate has cut open her womb and may never fall pregnant.
As soon as this section of the ceremony is over, the initiate is given a piece of knotted
cloth to throw to where all the young and adolescent girls who would soon be initiated
are gathered. Who ever catch the knotted cloth is supposed to be the next initiate. The
most interesting part of the anoka ceremony is the determination of the sex of the first
child of the initiate. This is how it is done.
Some of the mashed yam mixed with palm oil is put in a big bowl with a single boiled
egg put at the summit of the mashed yam. All the young children both boys and girls,
normally from seven years and above, are made to form a circle while the food in the
big bowl is placed in the centre of the circle. At a count of seven all the children rush
to the bowl to struggle for the food and the single egg. During this contest, it is
believed that if the child who succeeded in taking the single egg is a boy, the first
child of the initiate will be a boy and vice versa. After this ceremony, the rest of the
reserved food is distributed to everybody who attended the initiation ceremony. For
seven consecutive days, breakfast, lunch and supper are prepared for the group of
carers who will be with the initiate for the duration. The initiate is accompanied by
some selected young women to everywhere she may want to go. The selected elderly
woman takes the initiate through some form of apprenticeship to teach the initiate
everything the initiate is supposed to know as a would-be wife. The eleventh day ends
the initiation ceremony for girls.
Most of the things that are taught to the initiate are supposed to be secrets revealed to
the initiate only. However, leaked information has it that some of the teachings during
the seven days include how to satisfy the husband sexually, cooking of good food,
taking care of pregnancy, children and the home, keeping neat during menstrual
periods and doing most of the work at home and sometimes on the farm as well as
other family responsibilities. A very important observation is that any young woman
who does not go through this ritual is not respected among the people of the \holy
Village. It is even said that such a woman may not get a husband from the Holy
5.4. Pregnancy of a girl before initiation: breaking taboos
In the olden days any man who makes a young woman who has not been traditionally
initiated pregnant is treated in a way that deters any further commitment of such
taboo. Again if any man rapes a woman , the punishment was instant, awful and
drastic. In the case of making a young woman who has not been initiated pregnant,
the punishment starts like this. First the man and the young woman are summoned to
the chief‟s palace together with the parents of both culprits. At the chief‟s palace the
verdict is pronounced and the punishment begins instantly. The skin of the shoulder
blades of the man is taken with no anaesthetics. Secondly, both are tied together in a
handcuff. A sheep to pacify the ancestral spirits is slaughtered and the blood collected
is poured on their heads and escorted through the main street of the village naked.
At the end of the march, a few of the chief‟s soldiers are selected to take the culprits
into the special forest reserved for the punishment of culprits who break traditional
norms. In the forest, they are tied to the base of a tree swarming with black soldier
ants. They are guarded by the soldiers until they are dead. The soldier ants are so
ferocious that they are able to eat the corpse within hours leaving bare bones.
Barbarous! Yes, that is what you would say, but the horror of this punishment has
made the villagers youth and adults to behave according to the traditional norms of
the people. In effect, both young women and young men are virgins before they get
The punishment for breaking this taboo does not end after the punishment. The
parents of the two culprits are then summoned to the King‟s and Queen‟s palace to be
put on trial about the behaviour of their children. During the trial the Court allows the
parents and all the other members of the families of the culprits to convince the Court
that what happened was not their negligence that led to the incidence. Should the
families fail to convince the Court, both families are banished from the village for
ever including even grand parents, sons and daughters. This has been the method of
controlling promiscuity among the youth before they get married. As a result of this
punishment, every young woman or young man is a virgin before they are
5.6. Religion among the people of the holy village
Before the European nation United Kingdom invaded the Gold Coast and imposed
their culture and religion on the people, the Asantefo had their own special religion.
They worshipped God in its purest form. They used to worship God through a
medium just like the Europeans worship God through statutes of Jesus, Mary and the
like. Asantefo in particular believed that God is so great to be approached directly and
make requests. Instead requests are made through a medium. This can be a totem, a
rock or a river. Asantefo consider God to have a multiplicity of names of which the
following are regularly used during libation and ceremonies – Onyame [also Nyame],
Onyankonpon, Otwieduampong and Oboadee. Asantefo call the earth that supports
life Asaase Yaa. Legend has it that the Earth was born [created] on a Thursday and
because it supports the natural world, it is a female. Asantefo believe that Asaase Yaa
has a watchman who watches over violators of the dabone activities. This watchman
is called Asaaseboadensee. He is also referred to as the God of the Earth. Various
descriptions have been given to this wonderful guard of the Earth.
Asantefo believe that God was born on a Saturday and is called Kwame, hence the
appellation Onyankonpon Kwame, Otwieduampong Kwame, Oboadee Kwame. The
days that Asantefo worship God varies and such days are respected and observed
without the least deviation. Such days are called „dabone‟ which is equivalent to the
Dabone does not fall on the same day. Asantefo have a way of counting days
throughout the day. The whole year is grouped into forty days which make nine of
such group of days making 360 days in a year. Each fortieth day is special and
celebrated in the Holy Village. There are other mini dabone within each fortieth day
which are also observed. During these days everything has to rest. Anything that the
villagers would need would have to be collected a day before the dabone falls. On the
dabone everybody stays at home to observe the day. Activities for the day include
visiting the King‟s and Queen Mother‟s palace. Other activities include akom,
nwonkro, ntwiisi and „adaka‟.
Tradition has it that during these days Asaase Yaa, the Gods of the Forest, the Rivers
and Mountains come around and assess and evaluate what the people of the \holy
Village have been doing. Each day dabone falls has a special name. Dabone falling on
a Sunday is called Akwasidee, one falling on Monday is called Fodwoo, on a Tuesday
is Kwabena, on Wednesday is Awukudee, on Thursday is Foyawoo, on Friday is
Fofie and on Saturday it is called Fomemene.
Violation of dabone is considered a bad omen. Such violation results in famine,
epidemic of some sort, rampant deaths in the Holy Village and whatever misfortune
that befalls the people is blamed on the violation. Pacification of the Gods for such
gross violation of the traditional norms of the inhabitants of the Holy Village is
punished by death. One of such violations which my grandfather narrated to me is
5.7. Breaking the dabone tradition
One day, according to my grandfather, the Asaaseboadensee, the God of the land and
forest was offended. Any time somebody breaks the dabone severe drought usually
descends on the Holy Village and the surrounding settlements. For days, weeks and
months the people waited for the rains to start the planting season. Severe drought
descended on everything everywhere – in the forest, the mountains and the once wet
valleys were all dry and miserable to look at. The reason behind the drought was later
told to me by my grandfather.
According to the story, a woman called Maame Adwoa left her house with a basket on
her head and her blunt cutlass in it. On her way to the farm everything seemed still
and the silence was overwhelming. The usual morning forest breeze was not there on
that day. With hurried steps she headed towards her crops farm. Everywhere was dry.
The long merciless drought has caused every green leaf to whither. Every footfall on
the dry leaves sent a rustling echo endlessly through the adjoining thirsty valleys
yawning for a drop of rain.
Everywhere was dead silent and there seemed to be no life and even the birds were
not singing. The merciless burning rays of the sun had sent its heat to explore her bare
back as she bent over the stumps of withered cocoyam uprooting and collecting the
seeds. Three out of every four seeds unearthed were bloated. The hot baked earth has
suffocated and bloated the cocoyam seeds. The blunt cutlass she was using to uncover
the seeds seemed to be making pleading sound at every stroke against the gravel-
mixed baked soil ripping the unfortunate seeds and bruising the fortunate ones before
collecting and putting them into her basket. The basket was getting half-full but the
work of collecting them was very arduous and the sun was mercilessly roasting the
skin behind her back. She could not continue bending down to collect more seeds and
once in a while stands straight to relieve the pain in her waist after bending.
While busily doing the monotonous repetition of uprooting the stumps of cocoyam
and collecting the seeds, she heard someone whisper her name. She stood straight
easing the pain in her back to see who was calling. She looked round and saw nobody.
She bent down to resume her monotonous work. This time the voice called her name
louder than the first time. She stood straight and alerted her ears as a hungry lion
might do on hearing the footfall of an approaching game. She could not see anybody.
Realising the deadly calm surrounding her except for the voice that had called her
twice, she started to hum a popular nwonkro to keep her company. Then the voice
called the third time. This time it was louder than the previous ones. When she
straightens up she saw an unusual sight. It was a tall, lean and towering figure
standing behind her. Despite her shock she summoned courage to inspect her
unexpected visitor. She looked up trying to see his face and saw no head. She looked
down and there were no feet. In between the head and the feet hung a figure with long
arms and very thin body. Maame Adwoa started to tremble with fear. She shivered
and quivered. Then it occurred to her about the stories concerning the
Asaaseboadensee because what she saw fits the description of the God of the Land
and forest and recalled that she has violated the dabone.
The day was Awukudae, a special Wednesday traditionally considered sacred and no
one is supposed to go into the forest. The part of the forest where Maame Adwoa has
her farm is called Ahyiresu. Ahyiresu forest is shrouded in mysteries and what
Maame Adwoa saw was testimony of the mythological mysteries that are told to
Maame Adwoa realised what she has done and knew her fate. As mythologically
narrated by elders to children, violating the traditional and ancestral vows of the
dabone and going into the Ahyiresu forest at Awukudae is punishable only by death.
The Asaaseboadensee administers the punishment himself. Tradition has it that who
ever sees the Asaaseboadensee dies. The traditional believe is that the
Asaaseboadensee commands everything in the surrounding forests – rain, good
harvest, fertility, children, happiness and diseases. Any time the dabone vow is
violated the punishment has been the same.
On seeing the Asaaseboadenseɛ , Maame Adwoa collapsed and died instantly. At
night fall nobody saw her neither did they know where she had been. Then suddenly,
the weather changed, the winds started blowing, clouds gathered, the thunder roared
and lightning flashed the horizon but the rain would not come down. The Chief
traditional priest summoned all the inhabitants of the Holy Village to the King‟s
palace. It was then that it was revealed that there has been violation of the dabone.
During the gathering roll call was administered and it was discovered that Maame
Adwoa was not among the crowd. The Chief traditional priest poured libation and
pacified the Asaaseboadensee. Immediately after the pacification, lightning flashed
the cloudy sky, the breeze changed into devastating gale and the long awaited rain
poured down in torrents. The gathering the King‟s palace ended abruptly. It rained
throughout the night in such a way that at day break all the rivers were flooded.
Early in the morning, a search was launch to look for Maame Adwoa. Her body was
found in her farm and after the necessary rituals have been performed she was buried
where she was found. Tradition has it that when one dies in such circumstance the
body is not carried home to be given a befitting burial. Asantefo do not accord respect
to a dead body shrouded in mythological circumstances. What is known is that
Asantefo accord elaborate burial to the death but circumstances like breaking the
dabone vow, death by hanging or suicide of any form, no funeral celebration is
accorded to such dead persons. Usually, the body is disposed in the most despicable
It was from this story that I tended to believe and understand traditional and
FESTIVALS AT THE HOLY VILLAGE
6.1. Festivals and festivities
The people of the Holy Village celebrate two festivals every year. These are the
planting and harvesting festivals. Every year, before the planting season all the
inhabitants of the Holy Village gather at the market place with baskets full of the
reserved crops for planting to be blessed by the Chief traditional priest. The
celebration starts with the women preparing the local maize concoction while the men
slaughter sheep, cows, goats and chickens to be cooked for the feast. Everybody
dresses in the best cloth. While the local adowa or nwonkro groups play melodious
tunes, all the others gather at the arena at ten o‟clock in the morning in wait of the
arrival of the King and the Queen mother as well as the Chief traditional priest. On
arrival, all the people rise for the King and the Queen mother to take their seats.
Shortly after that the Chief traditional priest pours libation to the ancestors and the
gods of the land to usher in the commencement of the festival and the planting season.
Before the eating, drinking, dancing and wooing commence, major disputes that have
been brought before the King and the Queen mother are settled in order to make peace
and bring all the people together. The rest of the day is devoted to drinking, eating,
dancing, wooing and traditional drama performances. At about seven in the evening,
the King, the Queen mother and the Chief traditional priest leave the gathering.
However, the celebration continues into the later hours of the day. The following two
months will see the people of the Holy Village going to their newly prepared farm
plots either in groups or in families to help each other in the planting of the new seeds.
When the seeds have germinated and grown together with invading weeds, the groups
help each other to keep the weeds under control so that the crops are able to give their
best seeds during the harvesting time. The same celebration is repeated each year
And for the harvesting season, before new crops could be brought home by any
farmer or family, the Harvesting Season has to be celebrated. It is similar to that of the
planting season celebration. The difference between the two celebrations is that
during the first day of the harvesting season celebration, every house hold brings in
the first harvest on to the celebration grounds. Men and women go into the forest on
th4e second day to gather firewood that would be used to cook the meals for the
celebration. On the third day all the elders gather to deliberate about events that have
passed during the year and how calamities that befell the Holy Village could be
averted in the coming year. The fourth day is the beginning of the Harvesting Season
Part of the crops that have been brought by every house hold has to be customarily
offered to the Gods for granting the villagers bountiful harvest. Food for the
celebration is cooked early in the morning of the fourth day. By ten o‟clock in the
morning the celebration grounds would be teeming with anxious drummers, dancers
and singers as well as all the enthusiasts who attend the celebration from the nearby
surrounding villages. The eating , dancing and drinking follow immediately the King,
the Queen mother and the Chief traditional priest have poured libation to pacify the
ancestors and thanked them for their gift of good harvest, long life and plenty of
children. The celebration continues into the early hours of the following day. The
following months will see the people of the Holy Village coming home with their
harvested groups. Some are sold during the preceding market days while the rest are
carefully stored for the next planting season.
6.2. The role of the holy village hunters during Asante wars
My grandfather told me the story of the role the hunters of Konkori played during the
various Asante wars against their neighbours. One of such wars was the one against
the Denkyira. Denkyira was one of the rival Akan empires whose King was Ntim
Gyakari. Ntim Gyakari had a formidable army who usually repelled Asantefo army
advances to conquer and enslave them. During such wars, the route from Denkyira
area to Kum-ase has to pass through Konkori, which was the shortest and preferred by
the Denkyira attacking army. To pay back the Asantefo army‟s attack they usually use
the route through the Holy Village to surprise them. In those days, the right route to
Denkyira was through Feyiase-Aputuogya and the Asantefo army was always poised
to meet them for battle along that route.
When war broke out between the Denkyira and the Asantefo, the Denkyira army
decided to bypass the known route and enter Kum-ase from behind the Asantefo
army. Surprisingly, they encountered the hunters of the Holy Village. The chief of the
hunters, Akate, then the King of the Holy Village, and his band of hunters knowing
their terrain buried their food stuffs, burned their thatched houses and took to the thick
forest. They attacked the Denkyira army and inflicted heavy casualties on them. The
Denkyira army was held for days while Akate sent message to the Commander of the
Asantefo army about the hold up at the Holy Village. When word reached the
Commander of the Denkyira army about the coming re-enforcement from Kum-ase,
they retreated and followed the normal war route. And with the help of the Asantefo
Chief traditional priest, Okomfo Anokye, a fierce battle ensued at Feyiase, about
fifteen miles south-east of Kum-ase. The hunters of the Holy Village followed the
Denkyira army and attacked from behind until they were defeated.
In the celebration of the victory of the Asantefo army over the Denkyira, Asantehene
declared Akate and his hunters the „Adumfo‟, meaning the „Great Executioners‟. A
great festival was organised for Akate and his formidable hunters where they were
given a place in the echelon of the Asantehene court at Adum, a suburb of Kum-ase.
From that time until today, Adumfo are feared, especially when a prominent Asante
Chief dies, especially the King or Queen mother of any one of the five Asante
kingdoms or states. Adumfo were assigned a duty to perform any time Asantehene
dies or one of the paramount chiefs of the Asante states dies. They are always dressed
in their dark attire making it difficult to identify them in darkness. They always paint
their faces with black powder and dotted with white clay powder. They carry sword
and a short gun. They have special chanting password which are used to identify
members especially in darkness. If a chant is made and there is no response or the
response is wrong, the approaching target is attacked immediately. They are fast and
swift as the lion in the savannah grassland charging against its prey. They are also
used to quell insurrections within the Asante Kingdom by disgruntled groups who
oppose the rule of their chiefs.
The five states that made the Asantefo kingdom were Kokofu, Dwabeng, Bekwae,
Nsuta and Mampong. Each of these states had a paramount chief. They all used to
meet at Manhyia Palace of Asantehene for discussions concerning the welfare of the
6.3. Traditions and traditional connotations
The Holy Village has earned its fame as the Village of Expert Hunters and Farmers.
All the surrounding forests had been given names. These names are Penkuku,
Ahoroye, Tredeso, Aboatiaso, Anananweneso, Kropa, Ahyiresu, Akoasuaso,
Nkwanhyiayeso, Paworaso and Bominiso. Except Penkuku, Ahoroye, Kropa and
Nkwanhyiayeso, the rest of the names are the streams that flow through these forests.
Pawora and Aboatia are the streams nearer to the Holy Village and serve as the source
of drinking water where the villagers collect water for their domestic need.
The head of Aboatia is a permanent spring whose drips of water has created a
depression about fifty metres wide and serving as s reservoir and flows out as a small
stream and joins the Trede river. The colour of the river in the reservoir is bluish in
colour and under the thick canopy of the Aboatia forest is always as cold as
cucumber. This was the source of drinking water for the Holy Village hunters and
farmers. On their way to Tweneboase to join the convoy to Kum-ase, the hunters and
farmers take great quantities of the cold water to quench their thirst.
Abootia abounds in all types of fresh stream fishes ranging from pitire, tidie, monko,
bonto, nkaa, yoyo, akawe and aworodoo. According to my grandfather the fish in the
stream is not edible because the first hunters who discovered the stream ate some of
the fish they caught from the stream developed protruding stomach which they never
found cure and died. It became an abomination for anybody to catch fish from the
Aboatia stream for consumption. My grandfather indicated that the queen fish in the
stream has a golden crown on top of its head and that it comes out once a year during
the annual festival. It is believed that the year the queen fish does not come out
calamity befall the people of the Holy Village.
All the forests surrounding the Holy Village are revered. There are certain days that
these forests are not to be visited. The days of the week have special reference to
specific occasions. During special Mondays called locally Fodwoo, all the forests to
the north of the Holy Village are not to be visited. Those to the south are not to be
visited on special Tuesdays called locally as Kwabena. The forests to the east are not
visited on special Wednesdays locally called Awukudae and those to the west are not
visited on special Fridays locally called Fofie. These special days are counted and the
fortieth day is always observed as dabone. As indicated earlier, these days are always
observed as holidays. These days are strictly observed by all the people of the Holy
Village. On those days communal labour is done by the villages. This includes
sweeping every corner of the Holy Village, clearing the bush around the village
locally called mpaprebo. On completion of the communal labour food is prepared by
the women and everybody partakes in the eating thereof. During the afternoon, the
people gather at apatase and the local bands entertain them until night fall. One of the
most popular music that is used to entertain the people is nwonkro.
6.4. The traditional Asantefo country music Nwonkro
During the evening of dabone and most occasions, the traditional Asantefo music
called nwonkro is always sang by the nwonkro musicians. Normally, the people
gather at apatase. I became curious about the origin of this special kind of music and
asked my grandfather about it. Nwonkro is what the European call country music. The
narration he gave to me goes like this.
According to my grandfather nwonkro was invented by a mentally deranged and very
beautiful woman called Nwonkro. The revelation is that Nwonkro was a very
beautiful woman who lived hundreds of years ago. Before she became mad she used
to have all kinds of affair with men all over the area she lived. After she became mad,
all her lovers run away from her and never accorded her with the company she once
used to enjoy with them. As a result of this rejection, she used to sit under the
Tweneboa tree in the centre of the Holy Village and sing songs sometimes praising
her numerous lovers and sometimes some of the songs are used to curse them for not
coming to her again. This, according to my grandfather continued for years and the
women of the village could not resist the appealing lyric and rhythm that she made.
Later some of the women used to join her in the evenings to help her sing the
One day, according to my grandfather, while the women were gathered and singing
the song, a miracle happened. She got cured and became normal again. A group was
formed by the women and people from the surrounding villages used to hire them to
come and perform on special occasions. From then onwards the singing continue
every evening until it spread into the surrounding villages and throughout the Asante
Kingdom. The name of the music that they sang became known as nwonkro named
after the founder. Today, it is the most preferred songs by both the elderly and the
young. It is sang for entertainment, during festivals, funerals, naming ceremonies and
weddings. It is one of the rituals of Asantefo.
Immediately after the story, my grandfather told me to go to bed and promised to tell
me more stories every evening until all the stories that he has for me are told. I got up
and went to bed. The following months saw me and my grandfather seated together
around the fire every evening listening to stories. Most of the stories carried lessons
worth remembering. What follows are a few of them.
FIRESIDE STORIES TOLD BY MY GRANDFATHER
7.1. The story of Kontonkyi, the Hunter
The story is about the famous hunter called Kontonkyi who lived in the \holy Village.
My grandfather postponed ending the story until his death. However, what he told me
is worth sharing with modern generation. Probably some lessons to enhance modern
life can be learned from it.
Kontonkyi, he told me, was one of the most renowned hunters of the \holy Village.
\my grandfather told me that this hunter, Kontonkyi, never went hunting without
bringing home a game. Kontonkyi married a woman in the holy Village called
Anomuode whose brother was also a hunter. Maame Anomuode, as she was called by
the villagers, was envied by most of the women of the hunters because the husband
was the best hunter.
A time came when the hunters went hunting and did not bring any game home.
However, one of the hunters called Kontonkyi always came home with a game. Days
passed into weeks and weeks into months and months into years and still no hunter
came home with a game except Kontonkyi. The hunters felt as if all the animals in the
forest surrounding the Holy Village have gone hiding or have been herded into a
fenced ranch and locked in without a chance to roam the wild. To the hunters both
day and night hunting yielded nothing but frustration. Frustrated as they were all the
hunters gave up except Kontonkyi who constantly went hunting and came home with
One misty morning, according to my grandfather, Kontonkyi got ready and set out
into the forest for hunting. He packed his apretwaa (hunting sack) his lunch
comprising dokono (kenkey) and some dried meat with apotonsu (grated pepper and
onion mixed with salt). He loaded his gun and took extra gun powder and bullet
pellets which he would use to load the gun after a shot. He set out into the forest and
went deep into the Akwasuaso plateau. He roamed the whole length and breadth of
the forest but never came across a game. He felt tired and hungry and decided to sit a
stem of a dead tree. He opened his apretwaa and brought out his lunch box. He took
out his water bottle and washed his hands and got set to eat the lunch. As soon as he
started eating his lunch something dropped down from the tree under which he was
sitting. He turned quickly, the loaded gun on the ready, to find out what had fallen
from the tree. To his amazement he saw a small boy about seven years old standing
just behind a tree a few metres from where he was sitting. . The boy took a few bold
steps towards Kontonkyi, stopped a few metres away and said “Give me all the food
that you have and I‟ll give you what will make you get what you are searching for”.
The shock with which he had from hearing a small boy speak with such a command
and authority made him to shiver. He recollected immediately that he must have
broken the dabone vow, a day forbidden for anybody to visit a particular area in the
forests surrounding the Holy Village.
“What are you doing here at this time of the day when all little boys would be heading
to the house?” Kontonkyi summoned courage and asked the little boy this question.
“This is where I live. It is my home. My name is Samanbɔ bͻ ”, the little boy
Kontonkyi started to shiver with fear because the name reminded him of the things
that the Samanbɔ bͻfo does to hunters when he finds them with a kill. This story
has been told by elderly hunters who have encountered the Samanbɔ bͻfo and were
lucky to be allowed to live. According to the legend, Samanbɔ bͻfo is the ghost of
a violent heads of the hunters of Asaman who was killed by a wounded lion in the
forest many years ago. To the elders the Samanbɔ bͻfo comes around in the forest
from time to time to taunt other living hunters. They say that the Samanbɔ bͻfoɔ
was annoyed because the other hunters did not come to his rescue when he was
attacked by the wounded lion.
Sanbomabofoo continued. “I‟ve seen you and your fellow hunters pass here every
time complaining of not getting game when you go hunting these days. You must
know that all the game in this forest belong to my father. He told me to keep them in a
fence and protect them from you and your fellow hunters. I must tell you that no
hunter is going to go home with a game except I want that to happen”
“Does it mean that you are the gate keeper of the animals in this forest?” Kontonkyi
“Yes” the Samanbɔ bͻfo responded and continued. “I am here to help you but on
the condition that you will keep everything that will transpire between us secret until
the day you die. The second condition is that, even though I know that you are
hungry, I want you to give me all your food. The third condition is that every
midnight, except the day forbidden to enter this forest, you should prepare food, come
down here and leave it on this rock stool. What I am going to do for you should never
be revealed to any living being The day you break the vows, you will never get game
and will die as well. The day you either stop brining the food or tell anybody about
what I am going to do for you, you will die”.
Kontonkyi, believing that this was an excellent bargain, gave all his lunch to the
Samanbobofoo and sat next to him while he shockingly watched the Samanbɔ bͻfoɔ
ate the food with such ferocious greed that Kontonkyi even feared that after eating the
food Samanbɔ bͻfo would eat him alive. After Samanbɔ bͻfo has finished
eating the food, he beckoned Kontonkyi to follow him. Suddenly Samanbɔ bͻfoɔ
stopped and pointed to Kontonkyi to go closer to the cliff face. Kontonkyi found
himself standing in front of a large cave. To the surprise of Kontonkyi, he and his
fellow hunter have been roaming this forest for years but have never found the cave.
He was so surprised that he did not ask any questions. “Has there been an invisible
cave at this place that has escaped us all this time?” Kontonkyi soliloquised.
Samanbɔ bͻfo went closer to Kontonkyi and whispered into his ears, “I‟m going to
send you on an errand into the cave. You‟ll see wonderful things that you‟ve never
seen before. You should not be frightened while in the cave. There are three chambers
inside the cave. Honestly, the first chamber is not dangerous to cross. However, the
second and the third are if you forget the instructions I‟m going to give you.”
“What will happen if I forget the instructions?” Kontonkyi interrupted and stared at
the entrance of the cave which seemed to puff out some steam.
“Death!” Samanbɔ bͻfo exclaimed and went on to explain to Kontonkyi what he
should do while in the second and third chambers. “Always take seven steps forward
as you enter each chamber then turn at a right angle to the left and take another seven
steps. Turn to the right in the same way and take another seven steps and this will take
you into the third chamber. If you succeed and reach the third chamber you will find a
golden stool at the centre on which stood a big bowl. Take another seven steps
towards the golden stool and look into the bowl. Wash your face with the liquid in the
Samanbɔ bͻfo paused for a long time which prompted Kontonkyi to ask. “What do
I do after washing my face with the liquid in the bowl?”
“As soon as you finish”, Samanbɔ bͻfo continued, “don‟t turn. Take three steps
backward, turn at right angle to your left and take three more steps forward and turn at
a right angle to your right and take three more steps backwards and seven more steps
that will take you straight to the cave wall facing you. Stand still and close your eyes
for a while and open. Whatever you see is your gift for your boldness. But let me
remind you once again that whatever has happened between you and me should
remain a secret. Never tell any living being. They day you even think of doing that
you‟ll die”. Suddenly, Samanbɔ bͻfo vanished into thin air never to be seen again
After pondering over the instructions given by the Samanbɔ bͻfo , Kontonkyi did
exactly as he has been told and went into the cave and found the golden stool on it
stood the bowl with some liquid inside. He washed his face with the liquid, followed
the instructions given to him and found himself standing face to face with the cave
wall. He closed his eyes for a while and when he opened it he saw a lot of different
animals and did not know which one to kill. He shot at a deer and took it home. When
Maame Anomuͻd saw the game she became happy.
Throughout the village, it became apparent that it was only Kontonkyi who always
went hunting and came home with game.
One day, Kakaa, Maame Anomuͻ ‟s brother went to visit the sister when the
brother-in-Law, Kontonkyi was away. In their conversation, Kakaa talked about his
inability to kill a game any time he goes hunting and wondered how Kontonkyi was
able to come home with game every time he went hunting. “I think your husband has
a secret and I know he loves you and as such you can ask him to disclose it so that
you can tell me and make me a better hunter too. Anomuͻd loves her brother and
agreed to entice her husband so that she is able to know the secret and tell her brother.
Kontonkyi loved his wife so much that he would do anything to make her happy.
When Kontonkyi came back from the forest with a lot of game, the usual welcome
from the wife was missing. Maame Anomuͻdͻwas sullen and pitchy. Kontonkyi
wondered what the problem was about. “Aren‟t you well?” he asked as he approached
his wife. There was no response. The usual food that was ready any time Kontonkyi
came back from hunting was not there. Neither was there the water in the dwaresen
for washing. The usual thirty years tradition has vanished. Kontonkyi was worried.
In the evening when they were in bed, Kontonkyi could not sleep. He tried to solicit
reasons for her sudden behaviour. When she suddenly spoke, it was a very long story
before the question came.
“We‟ve married for over three decades but you‟ve never told me about the secret of
your hunting success. All the hunters in this village complain of not getting game
when they went hunting but you always came home with a lot of it without spending
much time in the forest. What is the secret of your hunting success?” she asked.
Kontonkyi stared at the ceiling for a very long time pretending not to have heard his
wife. But the wife would not stop. She kept on pestering him with the same question
over and over again until he became irritated.
“All that matters” he responded. “is the game I bring home so that you are able to feed
the family with good food and meat. You are not a hunter. If I have any secret, which
I don‟t have, why do you want to know?” he asked and paused waiting for the wife to
respond. When he found out that the wife was not responding, he continued “You
know that our tradition does not allow a hunter to reveal any secrets to his wife not
“Oh! So you have some secrets that you are keeping from me” the wife interrupted.
For the rest of the night, Kontonkyi did not speak again despite the wife‟s incessant
pestering of question to him.
The questioning went on for days, weeks and months but Kontonkyi did not bother to
answer it. Kontonkyi loved his wife but could not let go the secret which held his
success and live. Then one afternoon that he did not go hunting, he seated his wife in
front of him, and looking directly into her face asked “This is a secret that hold both
my success as a hunter and my life as your husband. I was told never to reveal the
secret and the day I reveal it I will die. And if you really love me, I believe that you
would not like me to die”.
Angrily, she interrupted, flunking her husband‟s hands away from her laps “If you
really love me, why don‟t you tell me? I don‟t think that you love me” she said.
At this point my grandfather told me that the end of the story was too frightening and
would rather want me to think of a befitting ending and tell him the following
evening. We met at the same time at the same place the following evening. My
grandfather asked me to tell him how the story was to end. My answer was simple. I
told him that if I were Kontonkyi, I was not going to reveal the secret to Anomuode
because if he died she could marry another hunter and tell him the secret that would
still make her happy with him because he would come home with game every time he
My grandfather was very much surprised to hear my answer and told me to keep it in
my mind because I would need the same ideas when I grow old and get married.
7.2. The story about patience
During the weeks that followed my grandfather told me many stories some of which
carried lessons for prosperous, peaceful and successful living. The two of the stories
were about patience and the secret of barrenness. The story about patience was the
shortest but was the dearest of all the stories that he told me. This is the story.
Kwadwo Kusi, one of the gentlemen of the Holy Village got married to Amma Bodua
immediately she was traditionally initiated. The marriage ceremony was traditional
and very gorgeous. Immediately after the marriage, Kwadwo Kusi built his farm
house in his cocoa plantation in the Ahyiresu forest near Koropa and named it
Hyiamankyene. The married couple moved to Hyiamankyene with their dog called
Kaaobinko. Kaaobinko was a very huge dog that stood about three feet tall. After a
year they were blessed with a baby boy. He was named after his father Kwaku Yea
Unfortunately, one month after the birth of the child Amma Bodua felt sick and died
shortly after that.
Kaaobinko, the dog has been trained so well that any time Kwadwo Kusi went to the
cocoa form he would feed the boy and the dog and leave it in the care of the dog who
never left the bedside of the baby until Kwadwo Kusi returned from the farm.
One Tuesday morning, Kwadwo Kusi bathed the baby fed him and Kaaobinko and
left the boy in the care of the dog and went into his cocoa farm. A huge python came
from the Ahyiresu River forest into the room. Kaaobinko engaged the python with a
fight and finally killed it. The dog was bathed in blood as a result of the struggle with
the python. It dragged the python and deposited it behind the opened door of the room
where the baby was peacefully asleep.
Kwadwo Kusi came home late that afternoon. As soon as he entered the corridor of
the house locally called ntworonoomu, he saw traces of blood leading into the room
where he has left the baby and the dog. He falsely believed that the dog might have
savaged the baby dripping his blood all over the place.
When the dog heard of the footsteps of its master it started wagging its tail and
twisting its body and came out drenched in blood. The gaiety with which the dog
jumped up to hug its master was met with a slash of the master‟s sharp machete taking
the head of the dog instantly. He rushed into the room where he has left the boy and
the dog and found, to his amazement, the baby peacefully asleep. Just in front of the
bed where that baby was sleeping he saw traces of blood leading to behind the opened
door. With a gaping mouth he caught the sight of a huge python twisted into pulp by
the dog. He realised what he had done and collapsed.
My grandfather never ended this story but I learned a lot of lessons about patience and
since then I have made it a habit not to draw hasty conclusions about what I see, hear,
read or what others tell me. I learned that agreeing with others without the complete
consideration of their opinions is a deadly road to tread which would eventually lead
to regrets. A lesson indeed!
TRADITION AND CUSTOMARY MARRIAGE
8.1. Marriage among Asantefo
Asantefo cherish babies very much. The inhabitants of Konkori, the Holy Village, are
no exception. They believe that babies are blessings from God and the ancestors and
that married couples who do not have babies are believed to have been cursed by the
gods and the Almighty God. Generally, Asantefo expect a baby to be born between
married couples a year after their marriage. If by circumstances a baby does not come
out of the wedlock after a year or two of marriage, parents of the couple consult with
the traditional priest and the oracles to find solution to the problem.
In the initial stages, traditional ceremony is performed by pouring libation to the
ancestors pleading to them to respond to the needs of the couple by granting them
babies. If after that there is no positive response, herbalists are approached including
other traditional medical doctors who are well vexed in providing answers to such
problems. According to what my grandfather told me, these were the last resort to
help reverse the problem of barrenness.
My grandfather told me that in Konkori, the Holy Village lived two married couples
called Opanin Kwadwo Adu-Twum and Maame Amma Ampoma. My grandfather
indicated that the married couple married for a very long time before they were
blessed with a baby boy who was named Kwaku Pipim.
At a nearby village called Odumase, almost merged with another village called
Afrantwo lived a beautiful young woman called Abenaa Agyeiwaa with her parents
called Akwasi Poku and Akosua Aninwaa. They were hard working. Their hard work
was rewarded and had made them one of the few richest farmers in the area. They
lived in a beautiful thatched house decorated with the traditional symbols like
sankofa, gyenyame and rolls of nicely decorated stones. The floor of their thatched
house was smeared with red earth traditionally called ntwoma.
Among the Asantefo, baby girls are highly priced and cherished because of the bride
price, (lobola or tri-nsa) that has to be paid by the family of the suitor before the girls
would be given out for marriage.
After the traditional marriage rites have been performed, the bride is escorted to the
husband‟s house to become a member of the husband‟s family. This does not mean
that the ties with the family of the girl are broken. Asantefo believe in the extended
My grandfather told me about the origin and reasons for the practice of the extended
family system. He said that when families practice the extended version, every
member of the family stands to benefit in many ways. In case of death or any form of
deprivation, other members of the family stand in for the deprived family. Where a
section of the family is rich both materially and financially, this fortune is spread to
the other half which has nothing. According to my grandfather, the extended family
system is the life blood of Asantefo and other African people.
Traditional marriage among Asantefo is involving. Marriage is revered, elaborate and
full of traditional and customary activities. Before traditional marriage could be
arranged several factors are taken into consideration. According to my grandfather it
starts like this.
If a young man in a family is old enough to get married, it is the responsibility of the
father and the uncles to see to it that their son and nephew gets a deserving and
befitting woman from a respectable family to marry. First, the father and the uncles
meet to discuss the issue and take the matter to the elderly woman of the two families
who look for a young woman for their son. When a young woman is identified a
thorough investigation is conducted into the background of the family of both the
young man and the young woman including the life styles of both families. Prominent
among the issues to be investigated about both families of the couples to be are the
general behaviour, the absence of deadly or contagious diseases, hereditary problems
including deformity, epilepsy, leprosy and tuberculosis.
Further to this the general behaviour of both couples to be since their childhood days
in terms of hard work, respect neatness, eloquence in public speech and above all
physical beauty and smartness are all considered as ideal characteristics for a befitting
woman or man to be married. Lying, theft and unexpected deaths through suicide are
considered anathema and should not be part of both families history.
As soon as the members of both families are satisfied about the results of the
investigation concerning the background of their suitor, the uncles and father of the
young man approach the father and uncles of the young woman and ask for the hand
of their daughter in marriage to their son.
The investigation about the background of the couples to be is two way. As soon as
the other family has completed its investigation about the background of the young
man following the same procedure; and are satisfied, a message is sent to the family
of the young man indicating the acceptance of their request to marry their daughter for
When a message is received about the acceptance of the request, the family of the
young man sends what is traditionally called ponobo. In the customary rites of the
Asantefo, ponobo refers to knocking at the door of the would-be in-law. It may be
money or some selected items. The acceptance of the gift lays the foundation for
further discussions and arrangements for the final traditional customary rite to be
performed. The final phase is the payment of the tri-nsa, also known in other parts of
Africa as lobola. It is not negotiable. The value of the tri-nsa is fixed. The tradition is
highly respected among the Asantefo. The tri-nsa has two forms. The first which is
also the major rite is for the uncles and father of the young woman. The second and
the last is called nkontagye sekan. This is a fixed sum of money the young man‟s
family is supposed to pay to the brothers of the young woman. The reason for the
payment of the nkontagye sekan is a form of compensation to the brothers of the
In the olden days, we have been told, if the tri-nsa has been paid the young woman is
not taken immediately to the young man‟s house. However, the young man could visit
the young woman at her parents house. But if the nkontagye sekan has not been paid
and the young man ventures into the house of the young woman which is customarily
permissible, the brothers of the young woman may ambush the young man and beat
him up. This is an indication that they do not have any brother-in-law and do not
know him. This signifies that they would not allow their sister to be stolen by an
The payment of the nkontagye sekan cements a bond between the youg man and his
brothers-in-law. The traditional significance of the nkontagye sekan is that it makes
the brothers of the young woman to take responsibility to protect their sister from
other male intruders. They also accept the responsibility of being part of the brothers-
in-law family. In fact this also accounts for some of the reasons for the extended
family system of the Asantefo where both poverty and wealth are shared.
8.2. The great feast of Asante traditional marriage
The presentation of the tri-nsa and the nkontagye sekan take place at a special
ceremony in which the two families, the Queen mother of the village, the Chief and
elders are summoned to witness the ceremony either in person or through their
representatives. The activities are traditionally officiated. Libation is poured to the
Almighty, Asaase Yaa and the ancestors of both families. They are invited to witness
the bonding of their grand children into marriage.
Some weeks before the young woman (bride) is sent to the house of the young man
(groom), the woman would have to cook what is traditionally termed aduane keseε
(the great feast). It is the first time that the young woman cooks and send it to the
family of the young man. The composition of the great food is a story that needs a
complete treatment of its own. Assortments of food are prepared, the major one being
fufuo, the traditional Asantefo staple dish.
Tradition has it that the evening of the great feast the young woman is escorted by
selected young and elderly women to the husband‟s house with all her acquired
utilities to start a new life as an independent, young married woman. That evening
marks the first day of the newly married couple to start their new life together.
What had been described is clear indication that among the Asantefo, in the olden
days, a young man or woman does not come home one day with a partner and tell the
parents that they are in love and intend to marry. A wife is to be married for a young
man by the uncles and the father. Traditionally and according to the Asantefo custom,
a young man has no choice whatsoever in selecting a wife for himself. This applies to
young women too. Once the father and the uncles have agreed to the request of a
family to marry their daughter, that is what the young woman will accept.
In the eyes of modern young men and women this may seem dictatorial and cruel
though, from the traditional point of view, it was the best way that a family could
ensure the protection of the married couple in case of calamities that often time befalls
married couples unexpectedly.
The elaborate nature of the traditional Asante marriage makes it also very difficult for
a couple to divorce. Divorce does not come very easily. Among the few events that
could lead to immediate divorce are adultery and barrenness. In the case of adultery,
the couple and the third party involved would be called to the palace of the Queen
Mother and the Chief. Adultery, in the olden days, was for the man, punishable by
castration and the reduction of the part of the penis and for the woman the removal of
the genitals including the clitoris and the vulva. Adultery, among Asantefo is looked
upon traditionally as extremely disgraceful. Regular adultery issues from a particular
family may make it practically impossible for the young men and women from that
family to get wives and husbands from the Holy Village.
Asantefo do no circumcise their female folk, and as a punishment, it is meted to
adulterers. Once circumcised the woman would never get a partner in the community.
Only strangers who do not know may get married to such a woman. Another way is
for the woman to move away from the Holy Village and start life else where. In
extreme cases, according to my grand father, the couple who committed the adultery
are banished from the Holy Village for live
Other events that could bring about divorce among couples include gossiping,
dirtiness (the inability of the woman to keep the house tidy and body clean including
clothes), wastefulness, laziness, sluggishness in bed and the inability to prepare
traditionally palatable local dishes. The worst of all is the issue of barrenness.
Akan tradition has it that a few years after marriage, especially during the first two
years, the couple should have, at least a child. Not having a child after two years of
marriage may lead to divorce. But in divorce of any reason, the traditional procedures
are followed. If the issue is from the man or the woman the whole process of marriage
is reversed and the tri-nsa is returned.
First, the man should inform the uncles and the father about his intention by giving
them tangible reasons for the action he wanted to take. In some cases, the two families
sit down and call the couples and try to mediate. If luck is on their part, the two agree
to stay together with the promise of mending the fences and make everything work
smoothly together again. However, if there is no other alternative, the father and
uncles inform the parents of the other party who also arrange a meeting with the
parties to hear each other‟s version of the story. Once they have heard both parties and
find out that there is nothing that they could do, especially if the reasons advanced are
strong enough to warrant divorce, the tri-nsa is returned amid the presence of the
Queen Mother, the Chief and his elders where libation is poured in the presence of the
village elders and the marriage is dissolved.
8.4. Death, burial and funeral
Asantefo have the most elaborate death-burial-funeral rite. If the dead person is young
and have never married or if the dead person is the first of the couple, the rite is very
simple. A funeral is not arranged at all. Asantefo believe that if funeral is arranged for
a first death in a family, it may make it impossible to have their children live to old
age. Traditionally, the first death is called sodoo. The couple whose child is late is
even required by tradition to eat normally the same day. Generally Asantefo are used
to prolong fasting for up to forty days if a member of the family dies.
When death occurs in a family certain customs are observed. If the death occurred in
the afternoon before sunset, it is kept secret until the evening. Deferring the
announcement of the death until sunset makes it possible for every body in the Holy
Village to have lunch and supper. The reason is that when death is announced there is
general observation by all households in the Holy Village. The close relatives of the
diseased have to fast for forty days. They do not eat fufuo, the staple food of
Asantefo. Fasting is one of the most revered customs when somebody dies. Once the
death is known everybody in the Holy Village goes to the house of the diseased to pay
their condolences and show their sympathy to the bereaved family.
The Chief and the Queen Mother and the elders are the first to be informed. They in
turn call the town crier who uses the gong and go about the village beating the gong
and making the announcement about the diseased.
If the Chief or Queen Mother dies, it is considered a special case and kept secret from
the public for some time for traditional reasons until all the customary and traditional
rites have been performed
Burial for the dead Chief or Queen Mother is different from that of the commoner.
Usually, the burial of the commoner takes place on the second day. The reason was
that there were no mortuaries and the dead could not be kept for a long time.
However, this has changed due to the advent of fridges and mortuaries.
Before the dead is buried, it is washed and dressed in the best robe and laid in state for
people to come and pay their last respect. The preparation made before the dead is
laid in state is the most elaborate and expensive thing to do. Akan families adore the
dead and always decorate it with all the ornaments that the family have. The
curtaining materials used to surround the bed are made from the richest materials and
the traditional kente is always used. If this elaborate tradition is not performed the
family is scorned after the burial and they lose respect of the people of the Holy
In the olden days Asantefo did not burry their dead in a coffin neither did they lay
their dead flat on their back. The grave is dug in such a way that the dead could be
seated during burial. While the corpse is lying in state men of the village would go to
the cemetery locally called nsamanpomu to prepare and dig the grave where the dead
would be buried.
The burial is timed for the evening, usually between five and seven. Before the coffin
was used, the corpse is wrapped in black cloth, usually provided by the children
together with some selected artefacts related to the trade of the dead and carried on
apakan over the shoulders of four strong young men who take the front of the
procession while the whole village follows. Asantefo believe that the dead continues
their trade. A given amount of money is tied to the edge of the cloth because Asantefo
believe that the dead is going to continue the journey and for that reason may require
money to pay for the transport. During this time, most people would be wailing and
the rest would be singing mournful songs and the beating of the tontonsansan gong as
they throng towards the cemetery. Before the dead is carried to the graveside, the
elder of the family pours libation to the gods and ancestors and request that deaths
never happen frequently in the family.
A basin filled with water is placed at the outskirts of the village on the way towards
the cemetery. Every body who accompanied the dead to the cemetery should wash the
hands in the water on return from the cemetery. The washing of the hands is a symbol
of leaving the bad omen of death behind.
On the following day, the entire family sit to decide on the day for the funeral. Once
the decision is made the message is carried across the whole area and ample
preparation is made. During the funeral celebration, if the dead is a married man or
married woman, the wife or husband sits in state. The man or woman is called
okunafo. People come and sympathise with them. The okunafo has to perform a
customary rite called adosowa kyekyerε. This is done to honour the dead by the wife
or husband. All the grand children of the dead also parade through the village holding
sticks and tramping the ground and singing the traditional song titled Nana awu O!
yemmua nna O!. They usually match towards the table where the mourners are seated
and demand some rand some from the elders of the family of the dead. The trampling
of the sticks will continue until they are given the rand some. If the rand some is not
given the group can disrupt the whole funeral proceedings.
A day after the funeral, all the members of the family sits and discusses the successor
of the dead. The selected person takes all the responsibilities of the dead and act in
Certain days are observed before and after the funeral. These are the first week, the
fortieth day and the annual day of the dead. Usually, the annual celebration is the final
day that the family officially end the morning of the dead.
MYTHOLOGICAL SYMBOLIC ANALYSIS AND THE USE OF
PHILOSOPHICAL DISCOURSE BY THE ASANTE ETHNIC GROUP OF
African indigenous people have marvellous mythological stories with philosophical
symbolic connotations which they make known to their youth during their stages of
growth. This is mostly done during the evenings when all chores for the day have
ended. Most of the teachings are in the form of stories which are told by the elders
who congregate with the youth by the fireside in the evening. Such mythological
stories are impregnated with philosophical issues – beliefs, values, morals, ethics,
good and evil, heaven and hell and ancestral worship. The psychological connotations
are centred on obedience, devotion, love for strangers and hard work without any
external motivation. Inclined on making children to identify with the Creator and live
responsible, appreciative and respectable lives during adulthood children were made
to understand life and living related to customs and tradition. Most of these
mythological methodologies for the upbringing of children have not been documented
for posterity. This article introduces and discusses a few of these mythological
niceties and teachings among the Asante ethnic group of Ghana to open up a
neglected field of enquiry for further research by interested researchers.
To all those who are not informed about the indigenous African customs, culture and
traditional practices very often refer to them as signs of backwardness, primitivity,
barbaric and outmoded because they consider such practices from a restricted view of
their life world (Quan-Baffour, 2008). Every ethnic group worldwide has their own
mythological stories. These mythological stories are the basis for their very existence
and make them unique –what they are, where they are now and what they have been
before and where they are going (Boaduo, 2010).
Among the Asante ethnic group of Ghana myths are advanced forms of stories that
carry spiritual instructions which includes symbols that stand supreme in all their
deliberations – from birth to adulthood and death; as well as during major cultural
celebrations like giving a new born baby a name, during female initiation to adulthood
and during marriage (Larunga, 1992; Ngangar & Prime, 1997). There are many
symbols that are depicted in traditional kente and adinkra clothes that tell the initiated
in the Asante mythology and symbolism, philosophical and psychological narratives
of life‟s practices among the Asantes‟ (Wiredu, 2005). Generally, Asante civilization
is grounded in myths and there are four distinctive functions that are always
interchanged when teaching the youth.
The four functions assigned to myths are mystical, cosmological, sociological and
pedagogical (Campbell, 1988; Courlander, 1996; Gatti, 1994). Mystically, myths help
individuals to realize the mystery of the universe in relation to creation and the
Creator. Cosmologically, myth is the aspects of life that cannot be explained, for
instance death is a cosmological mystery which Asantes take as mysterious and only
the Creator knows why it happens. Sociologically, Asantes take myths to support and
validate the rules of society so that certain principles values and moral principles are
specifically related to ethnic sociological inclinations. Pedagogically, which is one of
the major functions of myth among the Asantes, helps to teach the youth how to live
their lives from the time they are born to the day of death. In sum, among the Asantes
myths are the highest form of ideals and beliefs of cultural practices. Specifically,
myths are holier and revered and are meant for the youth to begin to be initiated into
the cultural and traditional beliefs of the Asante cultural heritage Quan-Baffour,
9.2. Ethnic mark: Origin and significance
Among the Asantes everyday spirituality is engrained in the cultural and customary
traditional practices. Culturally Asantes do not bear tribal marks of any sort on any
part of the body. The cultural understanding of Asantes about marks on the body is
that, if any member of the community bears a mark on the cheek, forehead or nay part
of the body, it is frown upon. Asantes believe that a person should keep every part of
the body intact in order to be able to give account when called by the Creator on their
return after completing their earthly mission. Any mark of any sort, on the body,
according to Asantes is a mutation and one would be held accountable (Oral tradition
from my grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).
Despite what has been indicated, which must not be taken to be a contradiction,
Asantes have marks on their body anyway. The first one is what is generally termed
as birth mark. Every Asante has such mark since the mark is naturally placed on the
body before birth and for that reason everyone is born with it. This apart, Asantes
have marks at specific points on their body. The commonest one is either on the
cheeks, the joints, and the centre of the forehead or at the corners of the lips. These
marks have special significance. They are either medical or related to special events
The medical marks are as a result of treatment of some ailments. Among the Asantes
certain diseases and illnesses such as convulsion, headache and joint pains are treated
with ashes prepared from medicinal herbs, barks of trees, roots, seeds and flowers.
The marks are made with sharp object in a form of small incisions at these spots and
the prepared ash smeared or rubbed in the opening. Such treatment brings instant
relief and the ailment is brought under control and consequently healing results (Oral
tradition from my grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).
The occasional one has various connotations and may include real mark on the body
as well as in names. One of it is that any time the same Asante woman loses a baby
consecutively, especially through stillbirth and through normal infant mortality, the
belief is that it is the same child who delights in playing tricks with the mother by
going and coming. Asantes believe that such mischievous activity should be
prevented. To prevent the mischievous baby from constantly molesting the mother in
this way, the midwife who is always an experienced Asante woman in delivering the
child immediately imposes on the new born baby funny names she can think of as
soon as the baby is born. Names such as Donko [slave], Sumina [dumping ground],
and Asaaseasa [space for grave is finished], Bosuo [dew] and Binka (let some remain)
or Yinka [this one should remain] are examples of children whose mothers have had
several still births. The belief is that these names are symbolic and once imposed on
the newly born child, it may feel shy to die (Oral tradition from my grandfather Nana
Another means of making sure that the same child desists from its deliberate
wickedness of coming and going is to make large marks on one or both cheeks or
around the corners of the mouth. Making such marks on the body of the child is
tantamount to declaring the baby a slave or outcast. It is believed that if marks are
made on the newly born baby whose mother has experienced consecutive still births
the baby will feel ashamed to die. Such names are also symbolical and show that the
child has been identified and cannot disappear again (Oral tradition from my
grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).
Asantes usually do not let stillbirth issues lie unattended. They consult with the chief
traditional priests and medicine men (usually referred to as “Odunsifo” to find
solution to the continuous stillbirths or child mortality within the community of
among specified family members. The traditional priests and medicine men and
women are consulted to find solution to such calamity. When children are born after
such events and they are marked as indicated above, they are also given names that
are specific to the issues surround their birth. For instance the word “bagyina” [one
specifically catered to survive] is given to a child whose mother struggled to conceive
and was helped by the tradition priest or medicine man. With such funny name and
the marks on the baby, there is no way to escape again. Some of the traditional priests
and medicine men and women even make sure the hair of the child is never combed
so that it grows naturally braided. This is called “mpesempese”. Among Asantes,
anybody who walks about with “mpesempese” on the head is easily identified as
ntoba [the child who has been bought from the ancestors]. Asantes believe in
reincarnation and ascribe special attention to children who are born and seen to be the
reincarnate of elders who have been in their midst before (Oral tradition from my
grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).
9.3. Spirituality among Asantes
Among Asantes, everything that God has created is significant. Both young and old
have dignity. Everybody is accountable for his or her actions. All people must behave
themselves to avoid penalty of any sort. Spirituality, according to Asante mythology,
begins during pregnancy and never ends. As a result Asantes treat one another and
strangers with respect, love, concern and dignity. Hospitality is ingrained in the blood
cells of every Asante. Spirituality is lived in the daily lives of every Asante. It is
expressed in concrete action. It manifests in the desire to refrain from offending the
ancestors and to attempt positively to remember them and make them part of their
daily lives (Oral tradition from my grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).
I recall many times that my grandfather, Nana Akwasi Poku, mentioned the ancestors
in almost everything he did. The mentioning of the ancestors refers to the effortless
daily interactions among Asantes and their relatives, dead or alive. Libation is the
major symbolic medium of contact with the dead. Libation is poured to the departed
souls at the beginning and end of every occasion in the community. The belief is that
at the beginning of an event the departed souls are required to be invited to come and
join the living souls for that event. At the end of the same event libation is pour to
thank the departed souls who were able to attend the event and also remind those who
could not attend due to commitments to remember to attend when they are called
upon next time. This symbolic exercise is ingrained in the lives of all Asantes
(Gyekye, 1987). Statements like “Nananom adaworoma” which literally translates to
“Due to the benevolence of the ancestors” is always altered during celebration (Oral
tradition from my grandfather Nana Akwasi Poku).
9.4. Hyԑbr and Nkrabea (Destiny)
Among Asantes hyԑbr and nkrabea are two important concepts that are used in
the explanation of the behaviour of children born in to families. The English
alternative is destiny. However, destiny does not explain the Asante dual connotative
meanings. Asantes have dual concepts for destiny which are hyԑbr and nkrabea.
Asantes believe that destiny is dual, and that hyԑbr aspect of destiny is self-
imposed while nkrabea is divinely imposed by the Creator (Sarpong, 1974). My
grandfather was not literate but the distinction I got from him, nevertheless, made me
to believe and understand the double Asante concepts of destiny he gave as hyԑbr
and nkrabea to be extremely relevant in the daily living of Asantes. Both concepts
are mythologically significant. The significance about the distinction is that when, as
a child, I do something wrong, it is not attributed to nkrabea which will make God,
the Creator responsible, but instead to hyԑbr which places the onus of my action
squarely on my shoulders. In other words, wrong doings are not attributed to nkrabea
since only God the Creator is responsible and assigns everybody‟s nkrabea. Asantes
have firm believe that God the Creator knows why He created human beings and for
that matter has a specific duty for everybody to perform. Unfortunately, once born
human being acquires different habits, which, in most cases sway him or her from
Hyԑbr , on the other hand is taken to mean the acquired habits of man, which has
nothing to do with nkrabea. Any time one is confronted by series of problems these
are blamed on hyԑbr and God the Creator is not made responsible of what is
happening. The dual meanings of destiny guide every young and adult Asante
9.5. Hospitality among Asantes
My grandfather was extremely hospitable. I clearly recall at one time his benevolence
nearly caused him his marriage. The wife wondered where all the food that had been
accumulated for the lean season had gone to. My grandfather‟s conviction was that
“keep doing good, the ancestors want it that way. According to him food that is not
shared with others will finish anyway. You will be satisfied to a point where you
cannot eat any more. If you had not shared your food with others, how can you, in
fairness, share your problems or even joy with them?” He used to emphasise that to
live a humane and happy life you need conversation; you need to be related to others.
In trouble times, he used to say, “you do not know who will come to your aid in times
of need”. As a result, Asantes usually express such philosophy in proverbs such as
“wo nko wo did a wo nko wone”. [Literally meaning if you eat alone you do not
expect anybody to accompany you when nature calls especially during the night]
9.6. Indigenous Asante songs and dance as mythological symbolism
Quan-Baffour (2008) has elaborately discussed about the transformation and
acculturation in Ghanaian songs. His contention is that Ghanaians, (Asantes being the
largest cultural group) cherish, love, practise and preserve their culture and tradition
through songs, names and manner of dress despite their exposure to western culture
(Wiredu, 2005). Authentic indigenous Asante culture and tradition are still very much
alive and cherished, valued, practised and treasured despite western cultural
infiltration (Williams, 1974). Music is integral part of the life of Asantes. Songs are
used to express love, hatred and sorrow in terms of occurrence of death in the
community (Ampene, 2005). Songs are powerful link to the worldview of Asantes
and are highly customised for specific occasions and contexts; for example songs
depicting joy and happiness at celebrations cannot be sung at funerals when people
are mourning and vice versa (Arts Council of Ghana, 2000; Kamba, 2000)).
Furthermore, through songs Asante musicians can sing to praise, abuse, complain,
thank, speak in parables, ask for favour from God of people, rejoice and express
satisfaction or disappointment in life as a whole (Quan-Baffour, 2008). Men and
women have their own kind of songs for various occasions. Nnwonkorɔ is usually
sung by women with varied type of songs that they sing. For instance during funeral
dirges are sung and celebrations have their accorded songs too (Ampene, 2005).
There are several traditional singing groups who may specialise in the composition
and singing of Nnwonkorɔ . Every song is always accompanied by special dancing
always associated with special body movements. The way the feet and arms are
coordinated in the movement during dancing requires intricate attention to be able to
decipher and understand the meaning. There are also songs of resistance which are
taught to and sang by the youth and are encouraged to sing them in the course of
protests either against individuals or communities or unfair judgement from the elders
in the course of disputes.
9.7. Logic in indigenous thought and how they are applied
In the indigenous traditional life Asantes do argue and settle disputes and evaluate
arguments both with respect to their validity and soundness (Wiredu, 2005; Davis,
1983). In disputations, especially when disputes are brought before the elders for
settlement, the elders usually enunciate fundamental logical principles such as the
laws of non-contradiction (viz, nothing is both the case and not the case) and exclude
the middle stance (viz. something is either the case or not the case). For example,
among the Asantes inconsistent talk before any group of elders during hearing would
be likely to invite the reminder that “Nokware mu nni abra”, literally “there is no
conflict in truth” which, evidently, is an invocation of the principle of non-
contradiction (Busia, 1965). And trying to evade an option as well as its contradictory
will, earn you the censure “Kosi a ɛ nkosi, kɔ da a ɛ nkɔ da” remonstrance, which
is a stern way of trying to wake somebody up to the principle of excluded middle.
This is, in fact so common that the logical carelessness in question will trigger it
almost in any group of the Akans, not just the elders sitting at the hearing (Forde,
1954). In sum, the Asantes have formed within their traditions the habit of trying to
set out the principles of reasoning among which non-contradiction and excluded
middle are of a very basic importance, in the manner of a system (as in logic); nor
consequently, have they tended to investigate the assortment of theoretical questions
that arise in such an enterprise (as in the philosophy of logic). Logic is ingrained in
the Asante philosophy. (http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v1/4/3.htm). Assessed
12/02/2010. Asantes are highly logic oriented and this philosophy is included in the
upbringing of the youth with the aim that if they are called to adjudicate in the court
of the elders in future they would be able to discharge their duties responsibly.
9.8. God, lesser gods and Spirits among Asantes
Asantes believe in the existence of a creator who created the Earth and the Skies
which they called Nyame (also Onyame, Nyankopon, Twieduampon or
Twereduampon). This Nyame, to the Asantes, is at the top of the hierarchy of gods.
Below this hierarchy are other lesser gods. All these orders of being are believed to be
subject to the universal reign of cosmic law. The absence of any notion of creation out
of nothing reflects the Asante sense of the ontological homogeneity of that hierarchy
of existence (Wiredu, 2005). In songs God is mystified with terms like Obooadee,
Katakyie, Kantanka and Odupon (Ampene, 2005). Every Asante youth is aware of
this and accords spiritual meaning and respect to these concepts and are not altered
playfully. To swear using these concepts indicated the seriousness of the issue under
consideration (Dankwah, 1968). The knowledge of God is internalised as the youth
grow (Knappert, 1986). The Asante adage “Obi nkyerɛ abɔ fra Nyame” literally
meaning, no one needs to show a child that God exists). This testifies the advanced
philosophical thought of God by the Asantes. It can, therefore be indicated that the
knowledge of God is not new to Asantes (Quan-Baffour, 2008). However, there are
lesser gods which are considered to work in tandem with the Creator – the Supreme
God. In some instances, for instance during death and funeral, the departed soul is
handed to ancestors to be escorted safely to his/her destination. These gods, are not
worshipped but are considered as medium between the living and the dead.
Furthermore, Asantes believe in giving respect to the divine and should not be talked
to directly. For this reason, Asantes use these lesser gods as medium of
communication between them and the Creator. The uninitiated would consider this as
idol worshipping. In essence, Asantes do not worship idols but use them as medium of
transmitting message to God. This is enshrined in some of the Asante proverbs “Wo
wɔ asɛ m ka kyerɛ Nyame a ka kyerɛ Mframa” literally meaning “If you have
message for God tell it to the wind” (Sarpong, 1974).
This is a sketch of some of the mythological symbolism of one of the Ghana ethnic
groups, Asantes. In the discussion, I have espoused about how Asantes take the duty
of bringing up the youth very serious by unveiling to them the niceties of the
traditional and cultural values that are held in high esteem that will help the youth to
grow up to fit into society to be able to make their contribution when their time
comes. The key conceptual frameworks that require articulation and understanding to
avoid conflicts of interests growing up in the Asante community have been discussed.
Destiny, songs and the articulation of logic, especially during the settlement of
disputes in the elders‟ palace have been sketched. Mythological symbolism is
engrained in the traditional upbringing of Asante youth as a survival strategy and the
preservation of tradition, custom and culture.
INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS OF TRADITIONAL AFRICAN
MEDICINAL PLANTS AND THEIR USE IN TREATING AILMENTS: THE
CASE OF THE ASANTE ETHNIC GROUP OF GHANA
Knowledge, over the centuries, has been recognised as power when acquired and used
to resolve pertinent human problems to help develop and advance communities in the
environment they reside. The assumption in this case is that knowledgeable
communities manage to elevate themselves from war, famine, diseases and other
catastrophes. The implication of this assumption is that it does not matter whether
people are knowledgeable in the traditional African ways or in the Western ways of
knowing. The knowledge, skills, attitudes and values embedded in their social
contexts are not only essential for their advancement and development, but also
critical for their survival. Knowledge acquisition through education enables
communities to emancipate themselves from ignorance and poverty and raise
themselves above all the challenges that may impinge on their general and specific
well-being initiatives. There is urgent need to gather together the wisdom of different
ethnic groups around the world, especially that of traditional medicinal plants and
their uses for treatment and healing of ailments. This paper proposes to make a
contribution in this respect by providing the basis of indigenous knowledge systems
of the Asante ethnic group of Ghana in traditional medicinal application of honey and
cinnamon powder to treat a multiplicity of ailments. This disclosure has been kept
secret by the traditional medical practitioners to protect their means of income but at
the present age when mankind is threatened by incurable diseases, this secret needs to
be broken and the knowledge made available free of charge to mankind.
Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) of indigenous peoples around the world are
varied; however, there are consistent patterns in the way indigenous knowledge (IK)
is acquired and in the nature of the content and context of their application (Nyathi,
2005; Ntuli, 1999; Van Wyk, 2002; Hountondji, 2002). It is important to place IKS in
proper perspective as different from the Western Science-based Knowledge Systems
(WSKS). In practice both systems have complementary characteristics. IK from the
African perspective is local and specific to the peoples who have acquired and
managed them over the centuries even before the advent of colonization. A major
characteristic of IK is that it draws on a very long term information base which have
been tried and tested practically for centuries. In this sense, it would be ideal to
indicate that there is great advantage in using both IKS and the WSKS for
complementation purposes for the treatment and healing of different ailments. In other
words, both systems have strengths that can help either when combined to work
together effectively and efficiently.
The rationale of this paper is that African indigenous knowledge systems (AIKS)
provide ways of knowing and learning and have the capability of addressing a
multiplicity of society‟s numerous health problems, which is revealed here for mass
application in the healthcare system of the world. IKS are by nature context-based in
the production of goods and services and provide socially constructive knowledge
capable of empowering people at grass roots level to resolve their health problems.
Furthermore, this paper addresses the problem of neglect of IKS of medicinal plants
and their use among the Asante ethnic group of the Akan speaking people of Ghana to
help resolve some of societies‟ numerous medical problems. The information
provided was tapped from the IKS of forest and savannah medicinal plants.
Hypothetically stated, indigenous knowledge of forest and savannah medicinal plants
can contribute to the improvement of healthcare in Africa. It is important that such
IKS are made available for researchers to undertake further studies to explore the
ways indigenous societies, over the years, have been able to survive amid harsh
climatic, economic and social conditions for centuries and had been able to attend to
their pertinent medical problems that they encountered before the advent and
introduction of western medicine. The IKS that guided such societies deserve to be
made available to humanity to be studied and experimented further and carefully
documented for posterity. The Asante speaking ethnic group of the Akan of Ghana is
central to this paper and the investigation conducted.
Knowledge is recognised by all societies as power when acquired, which enables
societies to develop and advance themselves in whichever environment they live and
interact. A knowledgeable community or society, which is able to use the natural
resources available in the immediate environment, manages to elevate it when
attacked or destroyed by war, famine, diseases or natural catastrophes. The
implication of this assumption is that it does not matter whether people are
knowledgeable in the traditional African ways or in the Western ways of knowing; it
is a compelling idea that people should be able to use and manage their indigenous
knowledge accorded to them by nature. Their knowledge, skills, attitudes and values
embedded in their social contexts are not only essential for their advancement in
social and economic development but also critical for their survival amid adversities
inherent in their environment.
It is a widely acceptable statement that education enables communities and societies
to emancipate themselves from ignorance and poverty and to raise themselves above
challenges that impinge on their general and specific transformational development
initiatives. It is also equally important to indicate that traditional African oral
literature has lost a lot of pertinent traditional indigenous information due to the fact
that, almost, all traditional African knowledge until recently was not documented or
recorded in any form and only transferred through oral tradition. In this case, it would
only be ideal to record such pertinent IKS for posterity without losing them to age and
forgetfulness, which accompanies growth of those traditional storytellers and
Generally, IKS refer to the knowledge and practices of local communities that
constitute their meaning and belief systems including their substantive dimensions of
their livelihood constructions. If such traditional IKS are identified, studied and
supported by institutions like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
with assistance from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based
organisations (CBOs); it becomes clear that importance is attached to IKS and their
application to resolve some of societies numerous problems could be attained through
revisitation, research and protracted study of the cultural basis of the information for
future and subsequent use.
Keeping permanent record and finding ways to make sure the sources of such
pertinent IKS do not vanish with age, like in the oral traditional times, there is
absolute need to keep replenishing the sources of such IKS for future generations.
This paper, as indicated earlier, addresses the issue of how IKS in traditional
medicinal plants among the Asante speaking ethnic group of the Akan Ghana can be
studied further, documented and used to help resolve some of societies‟ numerous
Theoretically, this paper prospects for the capability approach framework as an
enabling position within a socio-economic and socio-cultural theories of enquiry as
other ways of knowing, recording and keeping a data-base as a consideration for
quality IKS contributing to a critical transformational need in sustainable social and
economic development for the indigenous Africans, in this case, the forest and
savannah medicinal plants resources for the development and advancement of
10.2. Business potential of the IKS of forest and forest medicinal plants project
Africa‟s climate has been affected by the global climate change scenario. As a result
wild plants, in most parts of the world, are disappearing and the Habitat Agenda II has
warned the world to wake up to safe the disappearing wild plants in their natural
habitat. However, there can be another solution to save these plants through
commercialised cultivation and proper care which may not depend on the climate
change scenario for the survival of such plants. In the light of this there can be:
1. The cultivation of the identified plants on commercial basis: If this is done,
it would create employment for the local community.
2. The harvesting and preparation for storage of these plants and products
which would also create employment for the indigenous people.
3. There would be need to train practitioners who in turn would be self
employed and provide essential services to the local communities.
4. Marketing which would be required and indigenous people would be
trained to market the products thereby increasing their income earning
power for sustainability..
10.3. Plans for the commercial exploitation of selected species with market
As indicated above, the climate change scenario is a worrisome issue and for that
reason, important wild medicinal plants cannot be left to disappear without recourse
to get them cultivated and preserved for use among generations to come. Therefore,
there is need for sustainable cultivation of the identified medicinal plants for
continuous and sustainable use. There would be need for the following in terms of the
exploitation of such medicinal plants
1. There would be need to commercialise the products which would also
create more employment for the indigenous people.
2. The commercialization would require agriculturalists, farmers to produce
the plants, entrepreneurs, marketing agents, traditional pharmacists and
modern pharmacologists and their agents would be required. All these
would provide viable employment and increase in the income of the
10.4. Initiation and establishment of network of medicinal forest and savannah
There would be need to bring on board all the stakeholders in this business to make
them realise the significance of polling resources together to form a coherent network
of producers, practitioners, marketers and others.
The ultimate focus of this paper is to provide a summary of activities that would enable
communities within the forest and savannah regions of Africa and the rest of the world to
benefit from the products and their utilization for social, medical and economic benefits and
further contribute to the sustainable development of such natural resources to resolve health
and other related problems (Le Grange, 2000; Higgs & Van Nierkerk, 2002; O‟Dora-Hoppers,
2001 & 2002).
10.5. African Forest and Savannah Medicinal Plants, Herbs and natural honey from
To provide the basis of the wonderful healing powers of honey and cinnamon, a brief
synopsis of traditional African medicinal plants is provided for interesting researchers
to delve into the medicinal properties of these plants for healing and treatment of
ailments. Medicinal plants and herbs used for medicinal purposes abound in the
tropical forest, the savannah and the desert lands of the continent. In Africa, the
indigenous people use herbs as culinary to flavour food. Aromatic herbs are used to
add fragrance to concoctions. Medicinal herbs cover a wide range of types of plants.
There are annuals, perennials, woody or herbaceous and can be sun-loving or shade
requiring. The parts of these plants used for medicine may be their leaves, flowers,
roots, seeds, roots, bark or the juice extracted from the plant. What puts medicinal
plants and herbs together in a category is their use in healing. Plants and herbs have
been used by humans and animals for medicine for many years.
Honey, produced by the bee and other insects (not only bees produce honey, in the
traditional Asante ethnic group small insects traditionally called minina [the English
name not known by the author] also produce honey but in small quantities and used in
the treatment of several ailments) together with some medicinal plants would be the
focus of the rest of the discussion.
In Africa traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and
beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies,
manual techniques and exercises applied either singularly or in combination to treat,
diagnose and prevent illnesses and maintain well-being. Traditional healers help to
meet some of the primary health care needs of communities. Traditional medicine
(TM) has maintained its popularity in all regions in Africa and its use is rapidly
spreading to even the industrialised countries.
Among the Asante ethnic group of Ghana, the first treatment for sick children and
adults is the use of herbal medicine at home before conventional medical help is
sought. The Ghana Government encourages the practice of TM side by side with
conventional medicine. TM plays an important cultural and economic role in poverty
alleviation, particularly through the involvement of traditional doctors. This is the
main reason why traditional doctors keep their knowledge of medicinal plants and
10.6. Honey and Cinnamon Powder Mixture for a Multiplicity of Cures
It must be indicated that the information provided below stems from years of
application of honey and cinnamon powder mixture that has been used in the
treatment of several specific ailments. The application is being extended to other
ailments in order to broaden its application. The ingredients needed are pure natural
honey extracted from the honey comb (not diluted or heated) and cinnamon bark
removed, cleaned and dried after which the dried bark is grounded into fine powder.
A mixture of these products in proportions listed below cures most diseases. It is
advantageous that honey is available in almost every environment and can either be
bought or harvested from the wild. However, cinnamon is a kind of plant indigenous
to some areas in the tropical world and may not be easily available in other parts of
the world. However, dry and powdered cinnamon is available in many shops in the
cities and major towns around the world.
The Asante ethnic group of Ghana have been using honey and cinnamon mixture to
cure dozens of ailments. Conventional medicine has approved of the application of
this mixture for the cure of some ailments. It is important to indicate that the use of
the mixture has no known side effects. In other words, there has been no reported
overdose or side effects by clients of tradition doctors among the Asante ethnic group.
For those who believe in convention medicine, the honey and cinnamon mixture has
been tried and tested and reported in several media among them is the Canadian
Weekly World News of the 17th January 1995. In this publication, lists of diseases
that can be cured with the mixture as researched by western scientists have been
provided in the issue.
The following ailments can be treated with honey and cinnamon powder mixture:
arthritis, hair loss, bladder infection, excessive cholesterol levels, colds, infertility,
stomach upset, heart diseases, immune system booster, indigestion, influenza, ageing
and longevity, pimples, skin infections, weight loss, cancer, fatigue, bad breath and
loss of hearing.
It must be indicated that some of these ailments cannot be treated if there are physical
deformity which has been caused either through accidents or naturally, for instance
loss of hearing and infertility where the inner ear is damaged or illegal abortion or the
termination was not properly executed and the uterus is damaged.
10.7. The application of honey and cinnamon mixture for ailments
Traditionally, the mixture of honey and cinnamon powder has been used to cure a
multiplicity of ailments. Honey is produced in most parts of the world either
domesticated or in the wild. The Asante ethnic group of Ghana have used honey alone
as a vital medicine for centuries. Scientists of the modern era accept that honey is a
very effective medicine for all kinds of diseases. Generally, honey can be used
without any side effects for several ailments. If taken in small doses at regular
intervals it helps to heal diabetic patients, ulcer and infections.
10.7.1. Strengthening the immune system: The era of HIV/AIDS requires that
the immune system is strengthened so that the human body system is able to fight
all sorts of disease germs in the body. Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder
strengthens and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks. The Asante
ethnic group is aware that honey contains various vitamins and iron compounds in
large amounts that help to protect the human body. Constant use of honey alone
strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacteria and viral diseases. Try it
and see the good the mixture will do for you and your family. Instead of the so-
called spreads use on bread, try honey spread with your breakfast and see the
benefits that would be derived from it.
10.7.2. Indigestion and constipation: Two of the most common ailments among
the urban elites are indigestion and constipation. The solution to these ailments is
not taking purgative. Purgative of any type disturbs the inner linings of the
intestines because of the strength of the chemicals used in the production. Just
take a tot glass, pour in one or two teaspoonfuls of cinnamon powder and mix it
with two or three table spoonfuls of honey and suck it. This must be taken before
meals (breakfast, lunch or supper). The mixture relieves acidity in the food and
digests even the heaviest of meals. Try it and see the good the mixture will do for
you and your family.
10.7.3. Influenza: In the 1950s when General De Gaulle experimenting with
France‟s atomic bomb exploded one in the Sahara Desert, the whole of West
Africa lying south of the Sahara Desert was infected by influenza and millions of
children and adults died. Regular use of honey mixed with cinnamon extract save
most of the people. The natural ingredients contained in the honey kill the
influenza germs and prevents the patient from contacting flu. It is also a cure for
modern day flu. Try it and see the good the mixture will do for you and your
10.7.4. Longevity: Everybody aspires for good health in order to live responsible
and happy life. Make tea with honey and cinnamon powder and take it regularly.
The effect arrests the ravages of old age. If you like it boiled, take about three or
four teaspoonfuls of honey and one or two spoonfuls of cinnamon powder and two
tea-cups of water and boil sparingly to make tea. Add more fresh honey if you
want the sugar taste to come out prominently. Furthermore, taking a cup of this
mixture three to four times a day will reveal to you the changes in your skin –
fresh and soft. In the end your life span will also increase and you will begin to
feel great and younger. Try it and see the good the mixture will do for you and
10.7.5. Pimples and acne treatment: Several young men and women suffer these
terrible facial problems. Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder (preferably
in a clear petroleum jelly base for easy rubbing but not compulsory). Apply the
paste as a cream on the pimples or acne before sleeping. Wash the face with face
towel in warm water in the morning. Apply your usual face cream and go about
your daily chores. Do this for at least 14 days and see how your pimples and acne
look like. Try it and see the good the mixture will do for you and your family.
10.7.6. Skin infections: Skin infections are common in many parts of the tropical
world. Eczema, ringworm, heat rash and many more can be treated by applying a
paste of honey and cinnamon mixture on the affected parts, three times a day. You
can use Vaseline as a base in the mixture. Clean the skin of the old application
with face towel in warm water before the new application. The infection must
disappear within 14 days. Try it and see the good the mixture will do for you and
10.7.7. Weight loss: Over weighing has become sickness in the Western World
due to life style and the type of food people eat. This is a simple solution to
obesity and overweight. One hour before breakfast on an empty stomach, and
again before supper drink a boiled mixture of honey and cinnamon powder (to
taste sweet add more honey and stir to mix). Take the mixture regularly for 14
days and keep record of your weight. Furthermore, drinking this mixture regularly
does not allow fat to accumulate in the body despite eating a high calorie diet.
However, moderation in eating will quicken the results. Try it and see the good
the mixture will do for you and your family.
In conclusion, I cannot divulge all the information I have about traditional medicinal
plants and this will do for now. However, should any reader requires further inputs, I
can be contacted through my email address or my publisher. It has been indicated that
IKS among indigenous peoples of the world has worthwhile knowledge that needs to
be managed to benefit majority of human kind. What has been provided in this paper
is an aspect of IKS particularly managed by the Asante ethnic group of Ghana.
Several ailments like arthritis, hair loss, bladder infection (prostrate infections),
cholesterol levels, colds, infertility, uncontrolled bleeding from cuts, stomach upset,
heart diseases, fatigue, bad breath, hearing impairment and even cancer (the killer
disease in the Western World) can be treated with the mixture described above. What
is required for the western medical practitioners to accord this IKS its significance
and manage it successfully to alleviate aliments among humans should be considered
seriously. This is a legacy and if anybody finds this information useful, it must be
freely shared with professional colleagues, family members, communities and friends.
This is the essence of the contribution of IKS application to solving ailments in this
era of HIV and AIDS pandemic
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