In this latest guest post, I’m delighted to welcome Tami Richards.Tami Richards is a long time history enthusiast. She lives in Oregon, United States, where she thrives on day hikes and Sunday drives, and lives for a good read. Tami loves finding out about little known historical persons and bringing their lives forward into the present. Her newest historical profiles can be read on her blog.
The scramble for Africa took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Every European nation foisted itself onto the massive continent to divvy up the many resources, chief among the spoils was a tremendous amount of gold. The Ashanti (Asante; Asa means war, nte means because of) people of the area known as Ghana took advantage of this European drive by trading gold for arms and ammunition. The Ashanti used their abundance of weapons to make war against their neighbors and increase the size of their empire. They used their abundance of gold to unify their country when they mixed it with the tradition of the golden stool.
The legend of the golden stool begins when the supreme god, Nyame, decided to bring all the local tribes of the Ashanti regions together under one chief. Nyame sent a magician/healer, Anotchi, to the chiefs and along with him followed a dark cloud. In the midst of the cloud, all could clearly see a golden stool. When Anotchi instructed the stool to fall from the cloud and land before he who would be king, the stool landed before chief Osai Tutu, making him the first king of the unified kingdom and solidifying the stool as a sacred object to be protected at all cost. According to legend, within the golden stool was the assurance of health and prosperity. It held the souls of all the Ashanti people, living, dead, and unborn. To maintain its purity, it was to never touch the ground, no one was ever to sit on it, no one could touch it, and only a few select persons were even permitted to see it.
In 1900, King Prempeh, the thirteenth king of the Ashanti, was sent into exile in the Seychelles Islands when he refused to hand the golden stool over to the British. The governor, Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson, demanded he be brought the golden stool so that he may sit upon it, but the people would not allow it. On March 28, 1900, the British governor spoke at Kumasi, the Capital. “Your King, Prempeh 1, is in exile and will not return to Ashanti.” During this speech, he continued to tell them of the Queen’s authority, his power as the queen’s representative, and the amount of taxation the Ashante will be required to pay as a colony under British rule, as per the 1874 peace treaty, which the Ashante had yet to pay one iota.
He also insisted they forfeit their Golden Stool. “What must I do to the man, whoever he is, who has failed to give to the Queen, who is the paramount power in the country, the stool to which she is entitled? Where is the Golden Stool? Why am I not sitting on the Golden Stool at this moment? I am the representative of the paramount power in this country; why have you relegated me to this chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the Golden Stool and give it to me to sit upon?”
Kofi Tene was king of the Ashanti and his grandmother, Nana Yaa Asantawaa,was the Queen Mother. Nana was a word which indicated her high position. She became Queen Mother when her brother Afrane Panin became chief of Ejisu around 1884. With the exile of so many leaders to Seychelles, Nana Yaa Asantewaa assumed the position of Chief. She was a courageous woman with a strong sense of integrity and justice who did not take kindly to the governor’s proclamation that he should be brought the sacred stool, a golden representation of Ashanti strength.
Yaa Asantewaa gathered the leaders together and they hid the stool away from the invaders. The governor’s demand for the stool and payment for his self proclaimed overlordship was the last straw, she wanted to fight them and send them away from her home. While the British searched everywhere for the Golden Stool, Yaa Asantewaa noticed the solemn faces and weak wills of the fellow chiefs who seemed ready to meet the demands of the British. She stood to summon their solidarity in order to keep the stool from falling into enemy hands. “How can a proud and brave people like the Ashanti sit back and watch while white men take away their king and chiefs, and humiliate them with demand for the Golden Stool? The Golden Stool only means money to the white man; they have searched and dug everywhere for it. I shall not pay one predwan to the Governor. If you, the chiefs of Ashanti, are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loincloths for my undergarments.”
Encouraged to protect their very sense of self and nation by Nana Yaa Asantewaa, the Ashanti fought to save the stool. In the six month battle, more than 2,000 Ashanti perished and 1,000 British, but the Ashanti prevented the theft of their precious heritage. They safely hid the stool from would-be thieves until 1920 when it was found by African railroad builders who stripped it of the golden ornaments. The thieves were tried by the Ashanti for their heinous crime and sentenced to death, but the British Colonial authorities intervened and exiled them from the Gold Coast. The Golden Stool has been restored to its ceremonial place, and remains a cherished symbol of the Ashanti people.
“Yaa Asantewaa.” Yaa Asantewaa, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/people/person.php?ID=175.
“Berlin Conference of 1884–1885.” Oxford Reference, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195337709.001.0001/acref-9780195337709-e-0467.
The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Aug. 2020 .” Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia.com, 27 Sept. 2020, http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ashanti-wars.
West, Racquel. “Yaa Asantewaa (Mid-1800s-1921).” Welcome to Blackpast •, 10 Oct. 2019, http://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/yaa-asantewaa-mid-1800s-1921/.