My final post for Adventures in Ghana! Believe it or not, I had to get back to work at some point. But first, Kumasi. Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region and seat of the old Asante empire. It is a large and chaotic city, and I only saw a couple of the sites I originally wanted to visit…which means I have to go back! First up, Manhyia Palace!
The palace (originally destroyed and then rebuilt by the British) is home to the Asantehene, the ruler of the Asante people. The current Asantehene (referenced as His Majesty) is Emperor Asantehene Osei Tutu II. While my memory of the specifics is imperfect (feel free to fact check!), I believe that when an Asantehene is crowned…inducted…comes into power…a unique stool is made for them. When they die, the stool is blackened. These stools are replicas of the Golden Stool, which is a relic sacred to the Asante. The Golden Stool is covered in gold (huh…who would’ve thought?!) and is believed to have descended from the sky to the first Asantehene in the 17th century. The Stool is also believed to contain the soul of the nation. The Golden Stool was so important to Ghanaians, that they allowed their King to be deported rather than give up the stool to the British, and in 1900, when the British governor of the Gold Coast demanded to sit on the stool, the Asante went to war to protect the stool. There’s a lot more history surrounding the Asante kingdom, and it’s absolutely fascinating! Sadly, the majority of the palace was off limits to pictures, so enjoy the grounds and the peacock!
Next up, I traveled to the National Cultural Center, home to another museum (pictures also forbidden here) and more history (including a 300 year old royal cask that should it be opened would lead to the collapse of the Asante Kingdom). In addition, it is home to lots of craft stores and local artisans. I did get quite a few pictures of these!
One of the neater crafts to see hand made is Kente cloth weaving. Traditionally, Kente cloth was worn by royalty for special occasions, although it has become more prevalent in modern times. The cloth is handwoven and can take weeks to get a full length bolt of fabric. I’m not quite certain that it’s supposed to be worn as a scarf, but who knows!