Stools in Asante Culture

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July, 2009
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The stool is one of the more ubiquitous types of carving in Ghana, and it is especially common in Asante. Among the Asante people, the stool has varied functions. Stools are august emblems of political, judicial, and social leadership – the most important of the chief’s regalia and the ‘Sine qua non’ of his high office. Among the Asante and all Akans in general, the symbol of the authority of the traditional ruler is a stool. A stool denotes the social status of its owner and as such, it is the principal symbol of a chief’s political power and authority. Among the Asantes, stools have cultural significance beyond its domestic and utilitarian functions as a seat, and there are rules and taboos concerning its usage. With the assimilation of foreign culture, many indigenous cultural practices have been adulterated and require that the trend be studied for necessary action and pragmatic decision to be mad so as to protect the rich culture of the Asantes. The study focused on stools in Asante culture. The chief’s representatives, clan heads, curators at both the Manhyia Museum and Kumasi Cultural Centre, making a sample of 22 were included in the study. The researcher employed interviews and observations in the data collection process. Data were collected from Asante Bekwai, Kokofu, Asokore, Mampong Offinso, Juaben, Nkawie, Ejisu, Kumawu and Manhyia Palaces in addition to Kumasi Cultural Centre and Manhyia Museum. The findings revealed that Asantes are highly religious people who link every facet of life with God, ancestors, deities and divinities as being their “guiding angel”. They attribute very fortune and misfortune to the influence of God, ancestors and the gods. This belief is strongly showcased in their paraphernalia, which are art forms. The philosophies regarding Asante stools explain not only the spiritual significance but also every aspect if their life; every part of their objects has a purpose, deep meaning and communicates in no uncertain terms, the status, role and powers of the chiefs. The findings indicates that the highest ranked stool is the Golden stool and that Asantehene is seen as the supreme among the chiefs and kings. The unique authentic golden stool belongs to the King of Asante. He alone possesses the Elephant stool ({sonodwa) and the Leopard stool (}sebodwa). Some of the royal stools are exhibited ostentatiously while others are superficial. Cultural beliefs, values and customs change over time because of fashion, taste, education, entertainment and trade. These influential elements of culture transfer technology coupled with the assimilation of other cultures have reduced the value of some of the cultural practices of the Asantes.
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Partial fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts