From the 15th century to the 19th century, the Akan people dominated gold mining and the gold trade in the region.
From the 17th century on, the Akan were among the most powerful group(s) in west Africa. They fought many battles against the European colonists to maintain autonomy. During the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved Akans such as the Coromantins of Jamaica and descendants of the Akwamu in St. John, and many others were responsible for many slave rebellions in the new world.
By the early 1900s, all Akan lands in Africa were colonized or protectorates of the French and English. On the 6th of March 1957, Akan lands in the Gold Coast rejected British rule, by the efforts of Kwame Nkrumah, and were joined with British Togoland to form the independent nation of Ghana. The Ivory Coast became independent on 7 August 1960.
What the Akan Subgroups is made of:
The Akan Ethnic group includes the following subgroups: Ashanti, the Akwamu, the Akyem , the Akuapem, the Denkyira, the Abron, the Aowin, the Ahanta, the Anyi, the Baoule, the Chokosi, the Fante, the Kwahu, the Sefwi, the Ahafo, the Assin, the Evalue, the Wassa the Adjukru, the Akye, the Alladian, the Attie,the M’Bato, the Abidji, the Avikam,the Avatime the Ebrie, the Ehotile, the Nzema, the Abbe, the Aboure, the Coromantins, the Ndyuka people and other peoples of both modern day Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire or of origin in these countries.
How the Akan got civilized
The Akans consider themselves one nation. Akan means the Enlightened or Civilised. They basically trace their descent philosophically as from one woman. Within this nation are branches based on many dialects, widest (and possibly the oldest) one used is Twi. Each branch subsequently holds a collection of states and stemming from city-states. The state or Oman is typically ruled by several kings known as Ahenfo. The state is the basic unit of Akan polity. Several states and city-states can band together to form a Confederacy regardless of clan or Abusua they belong to, while those outside of the Akan tribe or the Abusua were usually conquered or annexed via war or mutual agreement. For example, the Guan state of Larteh and the Akyem state of Akropong joined together to form the Akwapim Kingdom to avoid the Akwamu, who the Guan deemed as oppressive. Under the State there are Divisions and under these Divisions are towns and villages.
Akan kings are ranked according to their jurisdictions. The head of an inter-clan Confederacy is usually considered a King, as in the Kings of Ashanti, Akyem and the Akwapim. Under these are the heads of the constituent states who equates an Emperor that only heads an Empire (for e.g. Asante Empire and the Denkyira). In Asante’s case, as an Empire the Asantehene reigned over non-Oyoko clan city states and ruled over the kings of those states as an Imperial head or Emperor (a hardly used but rightful equivalent term as Emperor literally mean king of kings.) but right Next, there are divisional Chiefs, they are primarily arranged according to the five divisions of an Akan army. The Akan army or Asafo formation resembles a cross or an aeroplane. The battle formation has the Frontline, the West Flank, an East Flank, the main body and the Vanguard. There are therefore five divisional chiefs in each Paramountcy. These are followed in rank by the Kings of the city and then the Kings of the town and then king of the suburbs.
Ashanti solders has a peculiar way of executing judgement. criminals and law breakers who were found wanting in their acts and would not be forgiven are brought to an open place, probably the playground, for execution. Crimes like man slaughter and other related crimes associated with blood are punishable by cutting off the criminal’s head at a strike of a machete. Also included in this kind of crime is treason. A typical criminal execution is shown below:
The Akan tribe mostly have seven Abusua in each state. They do not have the same names in each state but each has an equivalent clan (for e.g. in Fante areas along the coast, the Asante clan of Oyoko is referred to as Dehyena or Yokofo). The clans are assigned States which they rule by virtue of their status as founders of that jurisdiction. The Ashanti Kingdom is ruled by the Oyoko Clan. Ashanti princess is shown below.
However the Bretuo or Twidanfo(in Fante) as well as other clans rule States, Divisions, Towns and Villages within the Kingdom. The Fante-speaking tribes usually have the Asona Clan ruling most of their States (like Mankessim). Certain sub-clans or lineages have exclusive rights to some stools within Akanland such as the lineage of Afia Kobi in the Oyoko Clan who alone sit on the Golden Stool of Asante.
Matrilineal inheritance makes it easier to trace the line of succession. Within each lineage or House are the branches. The chief of a family is called an Abusuapanin(lit family-elder). Ranking above a family chief (a family’s Abusuapanin) is the clan’s chief (or clan’s Abusuapanin). These branches are called Jaase or literally Kitchens. Each Kitchen takes its turn to present a candidate for the stool to the kingmakers of the lineage. Once accepted their candidate rules till death. This means until all the Jaase have presented their candidates they have to wait their turn.
Akan Kings of whatever rank have other noblemen who serve them as Sub-Chiefs. Example of these important sub-chief in the Akan sosiety is shown below,
These sub-chiefs do not have hereditary titles and therefore do not have black stools. In addition each King has a female co-ruler known as the Queenmother. The Queen-mother is more like a figurehead representing the King’s or Emperor’s eldest sister and hence the mother of the next King or Emperor, she could rule as a King if she wishes(for e.g. queen-mothers mainly from the House of Asona clan: Nana Abena Boaa who ruled Offinso 1610-1640, Nana Afia Dokuaa who ruled Akyem Abuakwa 1817-1835, and Nana Yaa Asantewaa who ruled Edweso 1896-1900.) . They present the candidate for consideration as King. An assistant king does not have a Queen mother as his title is not hereditary. The head of an Ashanti Queen is shown below,
A Prince or Daakyehene(lit Future-king) is any of the members of the lineage eligible to sit on a stool. However, not all the noblemen or noblewomen are Princes as some may be ineligible. A prince is not necessarily the son of a King but rather the former King’s nephew on the mother’s side. As such nobles strive to achieve the position of prince in their families or for their children.
A sub-chief does not however need to be a nobleman. He only has to be suitable for the position he is to occupy. Some sub-chieftaincy positions can be abolished at will. They include the heads of the ruling house or Mankrado, the Linquist, the Chief Kingmaker or Jaasehene, the Supi or General of the Army, the Captains of the Army or Asafohene among others.
The way Akans ruled their nation fascinated the tribes of other West African nations and as the Akans conquered or formed alliances with these nations parts of it was transmitted to them. The British particularly felt the Akan system was efficient and tried to establish it throughout their dominions in West Africa using the Indirect Rule System. The Ewes and the Ga-Adangmes with their close affinity to the Akans have modified certain aspects of it to fit their societies.
In Ghana and other modern states where the Akan tribe is located the Kings, Assistant Kings, Princes and Noblemen of the Akans serve mostly a symbolic role. Modern politics has side-lined them in national politics although it is common to find that an elected or appointed official to be of Akan royalty. And, especially in the villages and poor areas, traditional Kings are still very important for organizing development, social services and keeping peace. Some Kings have decided to push ahead with the leadership of their Kingdoms and States in a non-political fashion. The Asantehene and Okyehene have emphasized Education and Environmental Sustainability respectively. Others push the national government and its agents to fulfill promises to their people.
In modern Ghana a quasi-legislative/judicial body known as the House of “Chiefs”(a colonial term to belittle African Kings because of the racist belief to not equate an African king with a European king in rank) has been established to oversee “chieftaincy” and the Government of Ghana as the British Government once did certifies the Chiefs and gazettes them. Several Akan Kings sit at the various levels of the National House of “Chiefs”. Each Paramountcy has a Traditional Council, then there is the Regional House of “Chiefs” and lastly the National House of “Chiefs”. Akan Kings who once warred with each other and Kings of other nations within Ghana now sit with them to build peace and advocate development for their nations
Other characteristic lifestyle of the Akan society include their beautiful culturally conditioned marital custom.
We cannot overlook the most lasting legacy that the Akan has adopted to, both commemorate and, still rehearses their history succinctly. This unquantifiable cultural embodiment explicated through the artistic display of the Akan children as shown below is not just a display of their characteristic life as hunters but also an endless linear path that narrowly traces their original history as Bantu.