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The role of an Asante father in nurturing a child

 The role of an Asante father in nurturing a child

Culled from Rattray (1929), ‘Ashanti law and constitution‘

‘A father has no real (legal) power over his grown-up children. If they wish to go to their abusua (blood), he cannot prevent them. In the case of very young children, when a man divorces his wife, she will take them with her; when they grow up a little, they will come and visit you (the father) and stay with you some days at a time. If a man, who divorces his wife, has young sons, they will remain with the father if they wish, and the mother will not take them by force lest the father’s nton (totemic spirit) should kill them, and she should thus lose them altogether.’

‘Training of children: It is difficult to find any trace of the systematic training of children.’ There were not any schools in the modern sense in olden times, but almost every hour of the daily life young children were undergoing unconscious instruction, mostly per￾haps by a process of imitation of their elders. The bringing up of a boy seems naturally to have fallen on the father, and to have begun very early in life. The uncle does not appear to have had much say in the matter, or to have exercised any control at this impressionable age.’

‘The young children attached to Chiefs’ treasuries were, however, systematically taught the weights used for gold-dust.’

‘A male child will sleep with his father as soon as he ceases to be suckled.’

‘An Ashanti father will teach his son whom especially to respect. ‘That man is the chief’s soul-washer; that one a stool-carrier.’ He is taught the names of trees and plants as he walks in the bush. He is warned not to use the words ntam kese (great ‘oath ‘) and various terms of abuse. Children learn about the abosom (lesser gods) and ‘samanfo (spirit ancestors) at the Adae ceremonies, and at the annual festivals, from which, it is noticeable, they never seem to be debarred? Obi nkyere
abofra Nyame (No one teaches a child about the Supreme God), added my informant.’

‘I have already mentioned in these pages the exogamous divisions on a patrilineal basis known as the Ntoro or Nton, to one or other of which every Ashanti belongs. Readers of Ashanti will recollect that membership of these groups involves the rigorous observance of certain food taboos. One of the earliest lessons taught to a child is therefore what he or she mayor may not eat. Such taboos are wholly governed by the ntoro which the child has inherited from his father. Undoubtedly this common observance, shared by children with their male parent, must form a strong bond between them, a bond which in some measure mitigates the gulfformed by the different blood-ties binding each, which separates the parent from
the child. ‘

‘There is a custom called Etiyidie (lit. that which is from the shaving of the head)which is as follows: On the occasion when a son’s hair is completely shaved for the first time-about the age of four or five-a father will present his son with a sheep and a small quantity of gold dust. The father cuts off the first tuft of hair, when the serwaa (lit. female father, i. e. the paternal aunt) completes shaving his head. The hair is then placed in a pot which is placed in the father’s sleeping￾room. The progeny of the sheep and any interest or profit derived from the gold belong absolutely to the child. The father cannot claim them, nor the mother, and on the son setting up house, the capital and interest are handed over to him. Should the father ever misappropriate any of this, it is a manson (cause of a dispute or legal action). An Ashanti father might, in the old days, besides giving his children the use of a plot of land to farm, which eventually reverted to his, the father’s, abusua, make a gift to one or more of his children of trees, e. g. kola. The father’s abusua (blood relations) were informed of the transaction; the gift was made in the presence of witnesses, and the essential aseda (thank-offering in return) was made. ‘

Culled from Rattray’s Ashanti Law and Constitution (1929)

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