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Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

The traditional food for the people of Ahanta is "Foomfoom" and the best of it is the one prepared with RED MAIZE also known as "Abele Azani" in Ahanta language. Preparing "Foomfoom" is a bit hectic and time consuming but it is actually what a traditional Ahanta man or woman would want to have as his or her last meal of the day. Why? Our forefathers said it cures and heal us of our diseases, sicknesses and grant us long life with good health. 


Aside being their traditional food, Ahantas believe in the spirituality of "Abele Azani". For them, "Abele Azani" is a source of long life and good health. They believe it has spiritual connotations and ancestral connections which tightens the bond between the living and the dead. They consider it as a weapon to drive away demons and evil forces from their homes. It fortifies them against dark powers and misfortunes but bring them good luck and fortunes during planting and harvesting seasons. Today, Ahantas especially those in Sekondi-Takoradi have lost touch of "Abele Azani" and it's spirituality. That is very sad and it tells our true state as a people and reasons why meaningful Ahantas should be worried. 


In 1700s, Wellin Bosman the Dutch explorer toured Gold Coast, and on reaching Ahanta, he noticed that they were the only people in then known Gold Coast and other places he had toured in Africa who had the "Abele Azani" which he described as SWEET. He further described how Ahantas were religiously , spiritually and customarily attached to these red grains apart from using as a staple food. They performed almost all their customs and practices with it and in fact, their whole lives as people centered on it. 


How Ahantas came to possess this maize remains a mystery but our oral traditions and myths say that it is the exact maize that Dwarfs handed over to Akpoley when he chanced on them dancing while he was on a hunting expedition. There other accounts which say that maize in general was introduced to Africa by Portuguese from South America but Bossman's account indicates that the RED MAIZE was unique to only Ahantas. If this is true, then Akpoley's account certainly predates the arrival of Europeans in Africa though one should admits inaccuracies in oral traditions and myths. In as much as we should admit inaccuracies in oral traditions and myths, we should also admit the fact that not everything good came from Europe to Africa.

Our oral traditions and myths narrate that Ahanta had been hit with intense famine as soon as they settled at their present locations after long years of migration from Bono. Akpoley being one of Ahanta's chief hunters was on a hunting expedition to find food or possibly another suitable area for settlement considering the intensity of the famine. In the course of his expedition, he chanced on Dwarfs dancing under a certain palm tree. He hid himself and studied how they danced for several days and in one of days, the Dwarfs noticed his presence and caught him. He pleaded with them to spare his life and also narrated how hunger was killing his people. Out of pity and mercies, the Dwarfs spared his life. They also gave him some red grains and asked him to go and grow it to feed his people and that was how the Kundum festival celebrated by Ahantas and Nzemas begun. The Dwarfs also taught him how to dance the ABISA which eventually became the traditional dance of Ahanta and Nzema people and the official dance for the Kundum festival. 


Today in Ahanta, Kundum is gradually fading away with the Abisa dance. It is only celebrated in villages around Agona Nkwanta. Kwesimintsim has also been celebrating it and that is really commendable by the chief of Kwesimintsim, Nana Egozi Esoun VII and his people. They are probably the only people in Sekondi-Takoradi who are keeping alive traditions and spirituality of Ahanta in Sekondi-Takoradi. It saddens some of us how we are throwing away such dignified cultural heritage bequeath to us by our forefathers. We are greatly losing touch with our spirituality as people and the very reasons why many Ahantas especially the youths shy away from their identity. 


Indeed, Wellin Bosman is on record to have been the first European to witness the Kundum festival in Ahanta and he gave a vivid account on how it is celebrated with "Abele Azani" featuring prominently in all activities as far as Kundum is concerned. He spoke about how they used it to prepare all their meals as well as performing other practices including spiritual fortifications with it. On the Kundum festival, Bosman spoke about how Ahantas danced at nights in circular forms around fires with bangles tied to their legs. They would stamp their feet hard on the ground with the bangles making noise. They also used the same formations when they are going to war. 


While growing up with my grandmother at Apemenyim, she held certain spiritual and traditional beliefs about "Abele Azani" that wondered me. She treated it with some kind of reverence and specialty. She always made me feel that our whole lives as people depended on it. I never understood her until I started researching on Ahanta and red maize. In fact, I never believed my grandmother in those days and felt she was being overly superstitious with her beliefs in "Abele Azani" but she kept on telling me that I would understand it someday and I guess I have understood it now. 


Even though we lived on subsistence, we sometimes had enough maize and sold some of them for cash for household needs and my grandmother would sell most of her farm produce but certainly not "Abele Azani". No matter how she is in need of money, she would never sell it but would rather give it out freely to anybody who needs it. If I ask her, she would tell me "Abele Azani" is not for sale. She would never trade "Abele Azani" for anything that bring money. According to her, their forefathers cautioned them not to trade it for money and wealth but rather they should give it out freely to anybody who is in it need of it. 


She recounted to me how in the olden days, Badu Bonso would call all his sub-chiefs in the kingdom to gather at his palace in Owusua (Busua) and share among them grains of "Abele Azani" . He would then charge them to grow it into larger folds and return some to his palace after harvesting so that he does not ran out of stock. The chiefs would return to their various communities and share the grains to heads of various families and households and also charge them to produce them in folds just as Badu Bonso charged them. This is done every year to religiously ensure the sustainability of "Abele Azani" in the Ahanta kingdom. Sharing of the "Abele Azani" signifies the beginning of the planting season for Ahantas and after harvesting, the first yield must be sent to Badu Bonso at Owusua and failure to do that can result in your death based on the orders of Badu Bonso. To those who were faithful to this ancestral tradition, they were rewarded with dusts of gold and he elevated some chiefs for keeping faithful to this tradition to ensure that Ahanta does not go back to the days of famine as it happened in Akpoley's days. 


She further narrated how "Abele Azani" signified the passage between life and death in the Ahanta beliefs and customs. She recounted in the olden days in Ahanta and how Abele Azani was considered the most important family inheritance that must be shared equally among members of a family before one's death. It is the reason why she always had some grains of "Abele Azani" hidden somewhere and ready to share before her death. 


If an elderly person in the family calls family members together and shares his or her stock of "Abele Azani" among them, it signifies that he or she is prepared to leave the world of the living and join the ancestors. Soon after sharing "Abele Azani" among family members, that person may not live beyond one week. It is for this reason that every Ahanta must have some stock of "Abele Azani" and pass it on to the family members before dying else it is believed that the ancestors will not welcome such a fellow in their midst.


Today Ahanta has lost in touch with "Abele Azani". I personally don't remember the last time I set my eyes on Abele Azani and let alone to taste it. How sad when we cherish the culture and practice of others and spite on our own which gives us our identity and spirituality as people. 


Things are not the same anymore in Ahanta and I am very worried. 


Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III 

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If you mention Ahanta, nobody seems to know what Ahanta means or the kind of people they are but Ahanta was once referred to as a nation, country or a kingdom and not the paltry 2 million ethnic group of people who call themselves Ahantas of today. We seem to have lost everything so many Ahanta youths who do not know where we came from and how our forefathers lived in greatness, enjoyed power and supremacy shy away from the Ahanta personality. They have thus become social renegades who wish to belong to other tribes where they have no connection.


According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Ahanta means the land of twins. As at how Ahanta became known as the land of twins is not certainly known since there are other meanings or accounts which seem more accurate and convincing than this one. It could be linked to the fertility of Ahanta women and multiple births which was very predominant then on Ahanta lands. Some indigenous cultural practices around that time saw births of twins as a taboo and for Ahanta to welcome the birth of twins is likely to earn her the title land of twins which I think we should pride ourselves with, but if we are to situate the land of twins account properly, then it precedes the migration of Ahantas from the Bono kingdom which occurred before 1229.


Ahanta is also believed to have come from the Fante word "hata" which matches with "yinda" in Ahanta language which means to dry or warm oneself after being wet or cold but geographically, the true definition of Ahanta is the land between Pra and Ankobra rivers. The stretch of land between these two rivers is how far and wide the once prosperous and flourished kingdom of the Ahantas covered. Our forefathers lived here in greatness and in supremacy particularly those of us who come from royal homes.


Ahanta belong to several Congo -Niger languages such as Igbo in Nigeria, Edo in Benin and all the Akan languages stretching across the South of the Sahara Desert from Togo to Cote D'Voire. It is one of the sub unit of several kwa languages across the forest belt of Sub-Sahara Africa. Ahanta is as old Methusalah but the sad thing is that our language faces possible extinction in the next 10 or 20 years as recently showed in a research conducted by the University of Cape Coast. We are not speaking it ourselves and for that matter, we are not teaching our children to pass it on to the generations that may come after us. Sekondi -Takoradi for instance has lost its Ahanta taste and fragrance.


Ahantas and Fantes moved from the Bono kingdom in the present day Takyiman after the death of Odapagyan who was then the leader of the Fantes to further south of the Sahara. On reaching the Pra river, the Ahantas crossed further southward to their present area of settlements around 1229. It is actually the crossing of the Pra River that gave birth to "hata" which means to dry or warm oneself in the sun. The oral account says that after crossing the Pra river, our forefathers decided to warm themselves in the sun and also to dry their clothes so they became known as "Ahatafo" meaning people who warm or dry themselves in the sun. It thus became our ethnic or tribal name.


This account is more precise, accurate convincing, consistent and backed by facts than the age old myth that Nana Badu Bonso and his descendants came from the mouth of a Whale. Legend has it that he fought his way through from the Pra river and settled at Busua which was then the abode of mighty Whales. He then established his authority over all the conquered lands and form his kingdom.


It is worth mentioning here that before the arrival of Ahantas, the land was already inhabited by indigenes who were probably Guans so the present Ahanta people comprises descendants of Guans, those who migrated from the Bono kingdom and other vassal states which later migrated into the Ahanta kingdom. It was the conquering exploits from the Pra river to the sea at Busua that rather earned the warlord of Ahanta Otumfour Badu Bonso contrary to the account that he came from the mouth of a Whale but whatever that it was, all the accounts surrounding the migration story of the Ahanta people make our history and culture rich. The royal title for Ahantahene was suspected to be "beduru bonso" which literally means to have reached the Whales and later corrupted to be Badu Bonso as years go by. He is believed to have possessed some whimsical powers that made him to conquer enemies with ease and thus the title Otumfour which means the powerful one.

Between 1300 and 1400 after arrival of Ahantas to their present location particularly the Bono group, they quickly organised themselves into a powerful kingdom which was made of chiefdoms along the Atlantic coast from Pra to the Ankobra. They had already lived in the Bono kingdom so organising themselves into kingdom and chiefdoms were something they did without much difficulties since they were already practicing most of the traditions and customs of the Bonos. Ahanta enjoyed prominence, glory, power and supremacy until the Europeans particularly the Dutch arrived in Gold Coast. The Ahanta kingdom then started to receive stiff opposition and interferences from foreign invasions particularly from the Dutch and started to lose its thresholds.


The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Gold Coast in 1471 and built their permanent trading post at Elmina in 1482. In 1515, they built Fort St. Anthony at Axim and in 1626, they built Fort Sebastian at Shama. The Portuguese had quickly expanded their trading activities across Ahanta from Shama to Axim covering almost the total land area of the Ahanta kingdom. The Dutch led by Barent Eriksz arrived in 1591 and by 1598, other Dutch traders had also arrived in Gold Coast and started to pose stiff opposition to the Portuguese. Through the efforts of General Jacob Clantius, the Dutch secured a permission to build Fort Nassau near Moree through the Asebu treaty.


In the preceding years, the Dutch constantly battled the Portuguese to drive them out of Gold Coast in order to gain control over the trade which eventually turned out to be a slave trade. In 1637, the Dutch captured Elmina Castle, Fort Sebastian at Shama in 1640 and in 1642, they had captured Fort Antonio in Axim. Aside ceasing Forts and Castles of the Portuguese, the Dutch built Fort Orange in Sekondi in 1642 and Fort Batenstein in Butre in 1656. By 1717 they had succeeded in driving the Portuguese away and gained control over the trade particularly in Ahanta areas.


Ahanta became the main trading grounds for the Dutch in Gold Coast. On 27th August 1656, the Butre treaty was signed between the Ahanta chiefs and the Dutch which made Ahanta a protectorate of the Dutch from the attacks of other European nations which had interest in the ongoing slave trade. A pact which lasted for 213 years until 1871 when the Dutch left the Gold Coast and the British took over.


The Butre treaty was longest pact between an European nation and an African state. This pact became the basis for the annihilation and desolation of Ahanta as expedient forces marshalled by the Dutch marched on Ahanta on 30th June 1838 led by Major-General Jan Verveer from the Royal Netherlands Army. Major Ahanta towns like Takoradi and Busua were massacred and a large military presence was maintained in Ahanta. Asantehene alone at the time offered 30,000 troops though the Dutch turned down his offer and believed it to be a ploy for the Ashantis to gain direct trading access with the Europeans at the coast.


In course of the war Badu Bonso II was captured and on 27 July 1838, he was hanged after which his head was removed and sent to Netherlands where it got lost for more than a century until it was rediscovered at Leiden University Medical Centre by one Arthur Japin who was conducting a research on Ahanta. He had earlier read about this great Ahanta king who stood against foreign invasion and interferences until his death. The head had then been stored in a jar of formaldehyde for about 170 years. In 2009, after a brief ceremony was conducted in Hague, the head was returned to Ghana. 


In 1871, the Dutch sold all their trade possessions to the British who had already built Fort Metal Cross at Dixcove in 1683 and were very active in the ongoing slave trade and left the Gold Coast after they had robbed Ahanta off everything including her pride and dignity. The British took over from the Dutch until 1957 when Gold Coast became independent and by then there was nothing left that Ahanta could boast of. From 1471 to 1957, Ahanta and other coastal Akan state were constantly oppressed and suppressed by several European nations particularly the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.


In all, foreign influence on Ahanta and other coastal Akan state lasted for 486 years. A period long enough to destroy everything Ahanta. Once a beautiful Ahanta kingdom was left disorganised till date.


Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Ahanta has lost its glory and shine in present day Ghana. We are regarded as a minority ethnic group with no social, political and economic relevance in the affairs of Ghana. It's like we have nothing on the table to offer socially, politically and economically. 


Even in Sekondi-Takoradi, we have allowed ourselves to be relegated to the background and have become more of second class citizens who feed on leftovers and crumbles falling from the dinning table. We have stakes in nothing as far as Sekondi-Takoradi is concerned, but who do we blame for all these woes ? I blame no one other than ourselves, and ask this question, is it too late to wake up as people and take our place? I think it is not. 


For more than 10 years, I have been researching on Ahanta and trying to trace our roots as people by connecting the dots and the missing links. In these years of researching on Ahanta, some of the things I have found beat my imagination. They are mind boggling and often leave me in awe, if I look at the present state of Ahanta. We are failing our forefathers, ourselves and the generation to come after us. 


How did we end up with high poverty levels and completely disintegrated as people when our forefathers and ancestors lived in glory and riches? Other tribes which suffered similar fate as we, have put the past behind them and moved on. They are rallying their strength socially, politically and economically for their collective well-being and interests, but unfortunately my beloved Ahanta still lie in desolation nursing fractures of colonial wounds. Let us wake up and heal from colonial wounds and take charge of our destiny, since the colonialists are long gone.

The Ahantas are believed to be part of the Akan warriors who were on migration from old Ghana through Bono. Around 1229, they crossed the Pra river with their leader who was described by his followers as the one who possessed whimsical powers. They soon settled between Pra and Ankobra rivers and organized themselves into chiefdoms with the king himself residing at "Owulosua" which later came to be known as "Owusua" and came to be known as Busua by the colonialists. Between 1300 and 1400, they had already mobilised themselves into a powerful force occupying the territory between Pra and Ankobra rivers and the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Shama to Axim and beyond. 


They came into contact with the Europeans particularly the Dutch around 1590 and early 1600s. They established friendly relations with them initially until the Dutch wanted more out of the their friendly relationship with Ahanta. At some point in time, the Dutch wanted the whole of Ahanta for themselves and that was when the hostilities between the Ahanta chiefs and the Dutch begun. The climax of the hostilities were the events which lead to death of Badu Bonso II and several Ahanta royals. Several others were also shipped to Dutch Indies and were made slaves in sugar plantations. For more than 10 years, no king was placed on the throne in Ahanta because the Dutch had deployed heavy military presence in Ahanta. 


In the Dutch - Ahanta war which led to the death of Badu Bonso II, the Dutch invaded his palace after killing him and made away with all the gold dusts stored in the palace since the foundation of Ahanta. They also took away other treasures, chieftaincy regalias, precious stones and jewelries belonging to the king and the queen. They had heard that Badu Bonso II had a lot of gold dusts and other precious stones in his palace, so as soon as they killed him, led by General Verveer, they stormed his palace and made away with everything. Apemenyim which was known to be the source of gold and wealth of the kingdom at the time was completely destroyed together with prominent towns like Busua and Takoradi. 


Whereas we are reminiscing the pains and agonies inflicted on us by the Europeans particularly the Dutch, we can also credit them with facts of records they left behind giving us the true state of Ahanta and its riches before they raped and robbed us of everything. Apart from oral traditions and folklore handed down to us by our forefathers, the Europeans themselves kept accounts of their encounter with Ahanta and that partly confirmed what our forefathers and ancestors told us. One of such European who recorded his encounter with Ahanta was Bosman, the Dutch explorer who toured Gold Coast in the 17th century. Douchez, F. (1839), Tengbergen, H.F. (1839) and Van Dantzig, Albert (2013) were some of the recent European sources on ther encounter with Ahanta. 


The early Europeans who came into contact with Ahanta described their king as the one who wore gold clothes and also sat on gold. They further described him as one who is rarely seen in public unless on special occasions, festivals and gathering of the people. They also mentioned that the king had his palace close to sea where a lot of whales are found. Of course! Still the palace of king of Ahantas is found at Busua, and Ahantas themselves hold the account that they came to this earth through the mouth of a whale. In as much as this appears to be a myth, it proves the fact and the significance of titles of the Ahanta kings which suffices with "Bonso" meaning the whale which is known to be the biggest creature in both the sea and on the land 


Europeans again described the king of Ahantas as one who has the power to grant life and death. If he forgives you, you are made to serve in his palace for a number of years and on the grand day of the festival, you would return to your village and people. If he condemns you to death, there is an execution square deep in the forest where they would kill you and bring your head to him as a proof. This is to ensure that the executioners carry out strictly the orders of the king. If he speaks, it is final and no one dares to challenge the words of the king. The one who does that will be put to death. ''Their king is greatly feared'', they said. 

They described the festival of Ahantas as one which is accompanied by drumming and dancing during the nights at the square. During the day, a strict ban is placed on noise and other activities because It is believed that their ancestors and gods will be visiting them with fortunes to have good harvest in the years ahead. A lot of sacrifices are made to appease their gods and ancestors and on the grand day of the festival, chiefs and people would come from all the villages and gather at the square of the king's palace to pay homage. Their king would then sit in public to receive gifts brought to him from all the villages. The grand festival lasts for about a month which is full of activities, after which the people would return to their village by walking.


They described our rivers and streams to have their banks covered with dusts of gold and they described Ahantas as natives who have gold in abundance. The above description is typical of how the Europeans describe many Akan states they came into contact with and Ahanta is not different. The history of Akans and gold can be traced from the golden kingdom of Kush through the old Ghana empire where the Akans were known to have been trading in gold and other precious metals. The story of Ahanta couldn't have been any different from all other Akan states. Ahanta was a state of gold until the Europeans particularly the Dutch looted everything and left Ahanta in tattered penury. 


We are now left with rifted chieftaincy and political fronts which is deepening our woes and agonies more than what the colonialists inflicted upon us, but it is still not late to wake up and build Ahanta. 


Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


On 25th July 1838, Otumfour Badu Bonso II was publicly hanged at Butre. His head was removed, placed in a formaldehyde jar and taken to Netherlands.

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