Akwamu people


Akwamu / Akwuambo / Akuambo

Akwamu (also called Akuambo) was a state set up by Akan people (in present-day Ghana) that flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. The name was also applied to its people. Originally emigrating from Bono state, the Akan founders settled in Twifo-Heman. The Akwamu led an expansionist empire in the 17th and 18th centuries. At the peak of their empire, the Akan created an influential culture that has contributed to at least three countries in West Africa.

The Akwamu are Akan-speaking people of larger Kwa ethnolinguistic people of Ghana and West Africa. They are found in the Eastern regions of Ghana. Their chief city is Akwamufie. The Akwamu people who were warriors and have conquered a lot Ghanaian and Togolese tribes became famous globally when they started revolt on November 23, 1733 in Americas. African slaves from Akwamu revolted against the owners and managers of the island's plantations in the 1733 slave insurrection on St. John in the Danish West Indies, (now St. John, United States Virgin Islands).


Akwamu Clan State (Akan People / Ghana)

Akwamu (otherwise known as Akuambo) was a small clan state that was founded by the Abrade (Aduana) clan of the Akan people, along the southern edges of the forests of what is now Ghana in West Africa. It was one of a patchwork of Akan communities that were at this time coalescing into nascent minor kingdoms following migration from Bonoman. At least two of these new minor kingdoms became prominent: Akwamu in the south and Denkyira in the central western area of Akan territory. For around a century and-a-half Denkyira held the upper hand in central Ghana because it had the best gold reserves, and gold meant power, while Akwamu expanded its own territory eastwards, towards southern Togoland and into Benin.

The origins of Akwamu are almost entirely obscure, just like those of the far greater kingdom that it would help to found - Asante. The Akan people of this and the other kingdoms had already begun to start clearing areas of the forest and to cultivate food crops, allowing their numbers to increase. They needed more labour to clear additional areas of the forest, so they took slaves to help. Farming prospered, producing wealth in food, and that drove the Akan on to achieve more. The state achieved its height in the early eighteenth century, shortly before its destruction. It stretched more than four hundred kilometres (250 miles) along the coast from Whydah (now Ouidah in Benin) in the east to beyond Winneba (now in Ghana) in the west.

Little more than a list of names of Akwamu's rulers is known. They ruled as the akwamuhene, the king of all Akwamu, and they used their wealth to ensure prominent displays of gold as a symbol of their grip on power. However, anything else about them is largely the product of oral tradition and should be viewed with suspicion. Even the existence of the great Akan king of Asante, Osei Tutu, who was supported by Akwamu, cannot be confirmed by historical evidence. What is clear is that the support given by Akwamu helped a minor clan state by the name of Kwaaman to prosper. This act also unwittingly planted the seeds of Akwamu's own eventual destruction.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Akwamu 1640-1750 - A Study of the Rise and Fall of a West African Empire, Ivor Willks, 2001, from History of West Africa, J F Ade Ajayi & Michael Crowder (Longman, 1985), and from External Links: Ghana Web, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.)


Location and geography

The Akwamu Hills Community forest is an ungazzetted forest located between Atimpoku and Akwamufie on the eastern side of Volta River in the Asuogyaman District of the Eastern Region. The hill on which the forest is located rises to height of about 400 metres above sea level and forms the southern limit of the Akwapim-Togo Range at the interface with the Akwapim Plateau within the Volta Gorge. The hill provides a rare panoramic view of the lower regions of the Volta River system. The community forest is owned jointly by a number of royal families in the Akwamu Traditional Area.
The forest has sub-montane vegetation at the crest of the hills, which comprises a mixture of Dry Semi-deciduous and Southern Marginal forest types characterised by rather short trees and relatively dense canopy dominated by Hymenostegia afzelii. Antiaris toxicaria and Ceiba pentandra are common emergent trees forming a discontinuous upper canopy. Dominant characteristic species of these forest types include Teclea verdoorniana, Drypetes parvifolia, Diospyros abyssinica, Dialium guineense, Triplochiton scleroxylon, Sterculia tragacantha, Celtis zenkeri, Cola millenii and Pterygota macrocarpa, Lecaniodiscus cupanioides.

Protected loosely by local traditional and cultural arrangements, the community forest is under intense pressure from the numerous fringe communities for variety of non-timber forest products including bushmeat. This notwithstanding, the fauna diversity of the forest is quite impressive. About 20 species of medium to large mammals including about five primates are known to occur in the community forest and adjoining areas. Some of the large mammal species that occur in the forest include western pied colobus monkey, olive colobus monkey, Mona monkey, red river hog, maxwell's duiker, bay duiker, royal antelope, long-tailed and tree pangolins and the African golden cat. A total of about 150 bird species have been confirmed in the forest and the adjoining areas, with the globally threatened and enigmatic white-necked picathartes being the most significant amongst them. Other bird species commonly seen in the forest include the black-winged oriole, guinea turaco, violet turaco, white-throated greenbul, gross-beak finch, Narina's trogon etc. The flora and fauna diversity of the forest coupled with the aesthetic beauty of the Akwamu Hill ranges and the Volta River system are great enhancements to the ecotourism potential of the area.

The Royal Senchi in collaboration with the Akwamu Traditional Council, acting through the Akwamu George Conservation Trust (AGCT) is working with reputable local and international consultants and organizations to conserve the ecological integrity and aesthetic beauty of the Akwamu Hills Community Forest by developing its ecotourism potential. The Royal Senchi hopes to achieve a long term conservation of the community forest by developing it into a first class ecotourism destination. It is envisaged that ecotourism activities in the forest and the surrounding areas would ensure sustainable benefit flow to the chiefs and people of the Akwamu Traditional Area.



Akwamu speak Twi a dialect of the larger Akan language within the Kwa group of languages and is in the Atlantic–Congo group within the Niger-Congo phylum.


Religious Belief

Akwamu belief in almighty "twediempon onyankopon"/Nyame (the supreme creator). It is a god above all god that created all the gods. Akwamu like Akans call on him whenever they are in need. They revere Onyankopon/Nyame. In prayers to the other lesser "abosom" (lesser family/communal gods), Nyame is shown with alcohol but is never given any. The libation maker would say "twediempon Nyame wokyere wo nsa so y3 ma wo nsa" (almighty god above we show you drink but we cannot offer you some). This signifies Akan (Akwamu) belief in a Sky God.
Apart from nyame the  Akwamu also have lesser 'suman" (family/ancestral gods) and "aman bosom" (community gods) that they make prayers to for protection and prosperity.
Many of the Akwamu people are now christians.


Ceremonies and Rites

Akwamu like all other Akans have rites for initiating their youths into adolescent stage. In the past women who reaches the age of adolescent are made to undergo "bragor" (menstral rites) by being confined in rooms for some days to receive advice from their elders. These teachings include how to do domestic chores,marriage techniques and social norms.After undergoing through these process, a final day is then reserved for the women to be purified by bathing in a stream and after that they are clad in white cloth to signify their purity. Animals such as fowls and either goat or sheep are slaughtered to prepare soup for them. Marshed yam mixed with eggs are then served to the initiates to glorify their "kra" (soul).
Apart from this initiation rite,Akwamu just like all Akans also have festivals they celebrate. These include Odwira,Akwasidae but the greatest one which the Akwamu are noted for is their own Adae festival.


Adae Festival

The Akwamu people initiated many of the traditional festivals celebrated by the Akan peoples of Ghana. As a result of the prominent role they played in the political and economic developments in the early European contact with the peoples of West Africa, many ethnic groups in the coastal and forest regions, adopted some of the essential elements of Akwamu cultural festivals and adapted them to suit their own political and spiritual needs. In his book Festivals of Ghana, Professor A.A. Opoku presents a detailed account of many festivals celebrated by the Akan people and other ethnic groups. Two of such festivals relevant to Akwamu history and culture are extracted from Professor Opoku’s book for the purpose of deepening knowledge about the pivotal role played by the Akwamu people in the history of Ghana.

The Akan calendar year is divided into nine cycles of forty days called Adae. The adae, however, does not merely mark a period in time, but it is also observed as a special day of worship. It is the day on which the chief and his elders go to the place where the sacred stools are kept.The spirits of the departed chiefs, it is believed, rest in the stools kept for them after their death. These stools are blackened with soot and the yolk of eggs to make them last long. They are sometimes wrapped in camel-hair blankets and laid on their sides in the dark room called nkonguafieso or stool-house. Only chiefs who do well in office are honoured in this way because the Akan say "it is the good spirit that deserves the feast of sheep".
The sacred stool has two uses. It is the shrine into which the spirit, or soul, of good chiefs may again be called upon to enter on special occasions such as the Adae. It is also a means by which we can tell the number of chiefs that have ruled over the tribe. Perhaps you know someone called Adae. The word means a resting-place. It is the name of the special day on which we are allowed to go into the room where the spirits of our forefathers rest. We shall soon see what the chief and his elders go to do at the nkonguafieso. In the meantime let us find out how the Adae is reckoned.

There are two types of Adae observed in every one of the nine cycles mentioned earlier on. These are the Sunday Adae, known as Akwasidae and the Wednesday Adae called Awukudae.
The period between one Sunday adae and the next is 40 days. The Awukudae or Wednesday adaes are also separated by the same period. The Wednesday cidcies come between the Sunday ones. There are 23 days between a Sunday adae and the Wednesday adae that comes after it, but the gap between a Wednesday adae and the Sunday one following it is 17 days.
We have already mentioned that adae means a resting or sleeping place. The main rites in the adae festival are observed in the stool-house or room.

The Akan live with the spirits of their dead. They believe that the souls of their dead relatives are still near to them and they call upon them in times of trouble. They ask for their guidance and make them offers of drinks and eggs, chicken and sheep.
On adae days, water, food, meat and rum are taken to the shrines. The dead are then invited to continue to help those over whom they ruled when they were alive. Not all people are allowed into the stool-house. Only those who perform the rites and a few who are related to the chief go there. Of those who go in, only the chief and the royal princes wear their sandals. We shall return to the rites that are performed in the stool house, but let us go back to the preparations for the Adae.

The day immediately before the adae is called Dapaa. There is the Saturday that comes before the Sunday adae, called Memeneda Dapaa. The Tuesdaypreceding the Wednesday adae is also called Benada Dapaa. Children born on the dapaa days are called Dapaa just as those born on adae days are called Adae. The Dapaa is the day of preparation for the Adae.
Foodstuffs, firewood, water, drinks, chicken, sheep, eggs and all the articles required for the celebration of the Adae are brought home on the Dapaa. On Adae days, no work or travel may be done except duties connected with the celebration.

The Dapaa is also the time for tidying up the house and its surroundings. Villages and towns and wells and footpaths leading to them are also cleaned.
There is much activity at the chief's house. Attendants and stool-carriers scrub the white stools and calabashes needed for the Adae celebration. The hornblowers and state drummers also busy themselves tuning the instruments which they will use to usher in the Adae in the evening of the Dapac. At sundown, when all the preparations are complete, the drummers assemble at the chief's house and drum till late in the night,
Only a few people are allowed to enter the stool house with their sandals on.

At the end of each line of the prayer, the hornblower blows his horn in praise of the ancestors. He recalls their great deeds to remind the ruling chief of what is expected of him.
When the spirits of the departed chiefs have had their meal, the remainder of the ritual food is taken outside the stool room and sprinkled in the courtyard for the spirits of the dead courtiers and attendants.
At this stage, one attendant carries in a sheep upon his shoulders. On certain special occasions, say on the Adae K€se or Big Adae, the sheep is carried before the stools by the chief himself as a sign of high respect. This is the most impressive part of the ceremony.
The sheep is slaughtered, that is to say the throat is cut and the blood collected into a wooden bowl. This is smeared on the Seats of the stools. Meanwhile the chief and his elders retire to the courtyard of the stool house. The attendants follow them later with what remains of the sheep's blood and use it to mark the chest and forehead of the chief and all present.
The sheep is then flayed and choice parts are cut up, skewered and roasted on a fire made in the courtyard. Pieces of the fat from the entrails are pasted on the centre props of the sacred stools and the head and parts of the intestines are placed before the stools. The skewered meat is placed Upon the stools. This, however, does not complete the courses of this ritual feast. The Queen Mother prepares fufu with the rest of the meat and places it before the stools. No salt is put into the food. I suppose you know why. The belief is that spirits do not eat salt. They prefer their food to be saltless.
When the final course of the meal is set before the stools, an attendant rings a bell to signify that the spirits are eating. Rum is now poured upon all the stools by the chief stool attendant and the rest is passed round to all present. The offerings remain upon the stools till late in the evening when all but the pieces of fat are removed.

The ritual in the stool house over, the chief retires finally to the main courtyard. By now all the lesser chiefs and those of his subjects who have come to wish him "adae morn" have assembled. The drums beat and the horns flourish till dusk when the celebration comes to an end.
In most Akan states the ninth or final Adae, usually referred to as Adae Kese, is observed as the state festival or Odwira. This festival, which covers an entire week marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.