Akan History

Door , 22/08/2009 18:06

Asante was one of the few African states able to offer serious resistance to European colonizers. However they were also unpredictable supplier of gold and slaves to the European traders on the coast. Between 1826 and 1896, Britain fought four wars against the Asante kings (the Anglo-Asante Wars). But the most famous symbol of Asante resistance to the British was the famous Asante queen mother, Yaa Asantewaa.

Yaa Asantewaa (c. 1840 – 17 October 1921) was appointed Queen Mother of Ejisu, a state in the Asante Confederacy, by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, the Ejisuhene (ruler of Ejisu). She is known in history as the leader of the Asante rebellion against British colonialism in 1900, known as the War of the Golden Stool.

During her brother’s reign, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Asante Confederacy go through a series of events that threatened their future, including civil war from 1883–1888. When her brother died in 1894, Yaa Asantewaa used her prerogative as Queen Mother to nominate her own grandson as Ejisuhene. When her grandson was sent into exile to the Seychelles, along with the King of Asante Prempeh I and other members of the Asante government in 1896, Yaa Asantewaa became regent of the Ejisu-Juaben District. After the deportation of Prempeh I, the British governor-general of the Gold Coast, Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool (the symbol of the Asante nation). This disrespectful request led to a meeting of the remaining members of the Asante government which was held secretly at Kumasi to discuss how to secure the return of their king. There was a disagreement among the leaders in attendance on how to go about this. Yaa Asantewaa, who was present at this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these famous words:

“Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you the men of Asante will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”

With this, she took on leadership of the Asante Uprising of 1900, gaining the support of some of the other Asante nobility.

Beginning in March 1900, the rebellion laid siege to the fort at Kumasi where the British had sought refuge. The fort still stands today as the Kumasi Fort and Military Museum. After several months, the Gold Coast governor eventually sent a force of 1,400 to quell the rebellion. In the course of this, Queen Yaa Asantewaa and fifteen of her closest advisers were captured, and they too were sent into exile to the Seychelles. The rebellion represented the final war in the Anglo-Asante series of wars that lasted throughout the nineteenth-century. On 1 January 1902, the British were finally able to accomplish what the Asante army had denied them for almost a century, and the Asante empire was made a protectorate to the British crown. Yaa Asantewaa died in exile on 17 October 1921. Five years after the death of Yaa Asantewaa, on 12 November 1926, Prempeh I and the other remaining members of the exiled Asante court were allowed to return to Asante and given ceremonial control over Kumasi. Prempeh I saw to it that the remains of Yaa Asantewaa (and the other exiled Asante) were returned for a proper royal burial. In 1935 the full role of leader of the Asante people was restored, but limited to purely ceremonial functions.

Yaa Asantewaa remains a much-loved figure in Asante history and the history of Ghana as a whole for the courage she showed in confronting injustice during the colonialism of the British. To highlight the importance of encouraging more female leaders in Ghanaian society, the Yaa Asantewaa Girls’ Secondary School was established at Kumasi in 1960 with funds from the Ghana Educational Trust. In 2000, a week-long centenary celebration was held in Ghana to acknowledge the accomplishments of Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa. As part of these celebrations, a museum was dedicated to her at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District on 3 August 2000. Unfortunately, a fire there on 23 July 2004 destroyed several historical items including her sandals and battle dress seen in the photograph above. The current Queen-mother of Ejisu is Yaa Asantewaa II.


The Baule belong to the Akan peoples who inhabit Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Three hundred years ago the Baule people migrated westward from Ghana when the Asante rose to power. The tale of how they broke away from the Asante has been preserved in their oral traditions. During the Asante rise to power the Baule queen, Aura Poku, was in direct competition with the Asante king. When the Asante prevailed, the queen led her people away to the land they now occupy. The male descendant of Aura Poku still lives in the palace she established and is honoured by the Baule as their nominal king. The Baule have dominated politics in Cote d’Ivoire since independence with the first president Felix Houphouët-Boigny being a Baule. He was succeeded by another Baule, Henri Konan Bédié. The current president (May 2007) Laurent Gbagbo is also a Baule.

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