The Akwasidae Festival is a magnificent Ashanti celebration centred on ancestral reverence, remembrance and acknowledgement of past kings and noble feats. It serves as a celebration of the Golden Stool and a cultural vibrancy that brings together the Asantehene, sub-kings and subjects at Manhyia in Kumasi.
Every six weeks, in line with the Ashanti calendar, Akwasidae captures the vivid splendour, magnificence and wealth exhibited in the regalia, performance and customs. Here’s our guide on how to celebrate Akiwasidae with the Ashanti People of Kumasi, Ghana.
The Ashanti kingdom is made up of social groups led by clan heads, compelled to connect the life force of the past and the people. The Asantehene – or king of the Ashantis – is called upon to oversee the pledging of allegiance to the Golden Stool, arguably the most sacred symbol within the Ashanti kingdom. Akwasidae marks the sheer magnificence of the golden heritage of the Ashanti people. Between 1697–1699, the Battle of Feyiase, otherwise known as the Ashanti war of independence, was an occasion to re-affirm indivisibility.
The Akwasidae celebration is an eventful spectacle, where the spiritual meets the physical. Ashanti culture centres on ancestral worship. In Akan “adae” means “place of rest”, and as such Akwasidae is when past kings are called upon to invoke their blessings on the people. Prior to Akwasidae, the preceding Saturday evening, known as Memeneda Dapaa, sees elderly women of the stool conveying totemic songs to the palace grounds. Drums and horns voice out harmonies and dancing goes on until the early hours of the morning, inviting the spirits of the dead. One place to learn more about the event is the Manhyia Museum
Akwasidae comes in two parts: aside from the main celebrations open to the general public there are solemn, private ceremonies, including rituals for eulogising the incumbent king and the presentation of ceremonial sacrifices to the ancestral spirits. The celebration on these days involves the purification of black, ancestral, hand-carved stools.
To pay homage to the dead kings, the stools are positioned on a raised dais and the Asantehene, divisional kings and elders visit in order of precedence. Mashed yam and strong drinks are offered to the dead kings. Sheep’s blood and entrails including the lungs are smeared on the stools to revitalise and breathe new life into the spirits.
The Golden Stool is a historic and arguably the most sacred symbol commanded from the sky by Okomfo Anokye, into the lap of Asantehene Osei Tutu during the 17th century. The stool stands 18 inches high, 24 inches long and 12 inches wide and is never allowed to come into contact with earth or be used as a seat. Every new king is lowered and raised over the Golden Stool without ever touching it. At Akwasidae, the Asantehene sits in close proximity to the installed Golden Stool. Since its introduction, the Golden Stool has always symbolised solidarity within the Ashanti kingdom.
Public celebrations include a fine durbar of kings, queen mothers, elders and the people presided over by the Asantehene. Golden regalia, umbrellas, palanquins and paraphernalia add to the glow interspersed with drumming and dancing from different cultural bands at the palace grounds.
The enormous wealth of the Ashantis is a factor that helped to develop the society into one of the greatest in Africa to the extent that it currently stands out as the leading custodian of Ghana’s rich cultural heritage. During Akwasidae, traditional rulers usually wear mourning clothes known as “kuntunkuni”. A notable feature is the array of colour that engulfs the atmosphere as fontomfrom, kete and mpintsin drummers and horn players fill the air with music for the seemingly tireless dancers and singers.