Akan History

Door , 22/08/2009 18:06


By K. Y. Daaku**

In the extreme north of the Western Region of Ghana are three traditional states collectively known as Sefwi. Sefwi is made up of three mutually independent paramountcies Anhwiaso, Bekwai and Wiawso. It is bounded on the north-east by Ashanti (Asante), on the east by Denkyira and Wassa-Amenfi, on the south by Aowin and on the west by the Anyi-Baoule of the Ivory Coast. It also shares a common boundary with Brong Ahafo in the north. All the three states share a common dialect Sefwi but almost all the people speak Twi (Akan). In Addition they have a common tutelary deity, Sobore, and a common yam festival – the Alluolie.

Since the middle of the seventeenth century this vast stretch of territory has served as a centre of refuge for people escaping from the political centralization policies of their neighbours to the north and east. Refugees from Bono-Takyiman Wenchi, Adanse, Denkyira, Assin and Asante found ready welcome in this territory. It appears that the Aowin (Awowin) rulers who formerly controlled modern Sefwi territory adopted an open door policy as a measure to increase the population of their state. Nor has the influx of people info Sefwi ceased up to the present day. Its virgin forest serves as a bait for cocoa farmers and timber merchants from all over Ghana.

* The only known historical study on Sefwi is by H. P. Holtsbaum entitled “Sefwi and its Peoples” in Gold Coast Review Vol. 1, 1925, p. 76-94. My own work is based on my collection of oral traditions in the three states between June and September 1970. This was carried out as part of the UNESCO Research on Oral History being undertaken by the Institute of African Studies, Legon. I am grateful to the Institute for the funds for the research. Field notes are in the library of the Institute.

** Dr. K. Y. Daaku is a lecturer in the Department of History, Legon.


It is not known for certain when the name Sefwi came to be applied to this area. The etymology of the word “Sefwi” indicates that the state is of comparatively recent creation. Sefwi is said to be the contraction of the Twi phrase, “Esa awie” or “Esa hie” meaning “War is over”. It is interesting to note that it was only in the early 19th century that the name appeared in the European records. The first mention of Sefwi, known to the writer, is in Bowdich. Before his time the early writers referred to the area as Inkassa, Inkassa Igyina, Great Enkassa or Encasser. In 1819 Bowdich mentioned a state of “Sauee” as lying eight journeys west north west from Kumasi. Five years later Dupuis showed two states Safey and Showy on his map of Wangara. These states were located to the northwest and southwest respectively of Asante. The latter state (Showy) which he placed between the Bia and Tano rivers may be identified with Sefwi Wiawso, whilst the former (Safey), although widely placed off its present location, may stand for either Anhwiaso or Bekwai or both. Perhaps the significance of Dupuis’ map lies in the fact that for all the time Sefwi has been known to comprise of more than one independent state.

Both written and oral evidence indicate that until the rise of the Akan states of Denkyira and Asante the most powerful state in the southwestern region of Ghana was Aowin. It was not until the last two decades of the 17th century that Denkyira succeeded in bringing Aowin under its rule. Even so the Denkyira victory did not much affect the power of Aowin since all that the victorious power was interested in was to obtain free passage for its traders to and from Aowin and to collect it annual tribute. The evidence would seem to suggest that by the end of the 17th century Aowin had not only regained its former power but had embarked on a policy of economic and political expansion which was to bring it face to face with the rising power of Asante in the 1710’s. Its control over the sources of gold and the trade routes to the northern market of Begho and the coastal town of Apollonia was one of the causes which led to the Asante-Aowin War of 1715. By the beginning of the 18th century the wars with Denkyira and Asante had led to a loss of much of Aowin territory to the west of the Tano to many of the Twi-speaking people from the east. Although the new immigrants were victorious in the wars, they seemed to have lost their language, which now is so heavily overlaid with the dialect of the Aowin as to render it virtually incomprehensible to the other Twi speakers. In spite of their linguistic affinity with the Aowin, very few people in the three states of Sefwi may be said to have remotely directly originated from the Aowin. Among such towns are Bonzan (Moinsea), DaTano, Benchema, Kwodwokrom, and part of Bodi. Although they do not consider themselves to be Aowin, there is no doubt that they were once a part of or under the Aowin.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Reacties gesloten

Panorama Theme by Themocracy