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Role of Akan women in pre-colonial times

 Role of Akan women in pre-colonial times

Nana Dwaben Serwaa II

The society of the Akan people is matrilineal. Hence among the Akan women are the dominant force. They believe, that the Mogya (blood) is transferred exclusively through the female (mother) line. The Ohemaa, the female King or Queenmother as she is called by Europeans is the owner of the state, the Ohene (male King) is appointed by the Ohemaa to rule the state. In the olden days, there were no male Kings. It was much later, when the female leaders appointed a male member of their respective family to rule on their behalf. In these days, the female King was the sole owner of wealth and power. Indeed, a state, township or clan could not be founded without an Ohemaa, although many states were founded without a King. Since the succession was and still is in the female line, it was essential for a woman of royal blood to give birth to the state. This is why we until today say A King may rule a state, but the Queenmother owns it. Just as a mother owns her child, she owns the state and is regarded as the mother of everybody within in the state, in particular of the King.

The Supreme Being of the Akan people is, Nyame-Nyankopon-Odumankoma. The Ohemaa symbolizes Nyame (the female aspect of the Supreme Being or Creator), who created the universe by giving birth to the sun. The sun, as the son of the moon is personified by the Sungod. Hence, the Queenmother represents the great Mother-Moon-Goddess, the King the Sungod and the state the Universe. At the royal Akan courts they still sing Ohemaa ye bosom, na Ohene ye awia (The Queenmother is the moon and the King is the Sun). In addition, there are the planets of the ancients (nkyin-nsoroma), which are as follows: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. There are seven matrilineal clans, which represents them on earth. The stars on the firmament surrounding the moon (nyankonsoroma) are represented by the children of the royal lineage. The clans are as follows: Adako/Oyoko (falcon), Aduana/Aberade (dog/leopard), Asona (crow), Bretuo/Tena (leopard), Ekoana (Buffalo). Later the Asakyiri clan was created out of the Asona clan and the Agona clan was created out of the Bretuo clan. The Akyeneboa (animal totem) embodies the characteristics of the Abusua (clan) and it is therefore a taboo to kill or eat the totem of its clan. It is important to note, that one always belongs to the clan of his mother or maternal ancestor. All members of the same clan consider themselves as mogyakoro or blood relations, regardless of which Akan state they hail from (Asante, Fante, Akwamu, Denkyira, Bono, Akyem, Akuapem, Kwahu etc.). As they descend from the same ancestresses. This is why for i.e., an Asona man from Asante cannot marry an Asona woman from Akyem.

However, there are some stools, which follow paternal inheritance. Those stools require to have certain characteristics/skills to perform special assignments. Such traits Akan believe pass on from father to the son. To the Akans, Ntoro is the genetic characteristics which shows the paternal group one belongs to. Like Abusua or clan which is passed on through the female and cannot be transferred by the male, Notro also is passed through the male and cannot be transferred by the female. Another type of inheritance, are stools, which were created for the children of the royal family and hence follow paternal inheritance. With the introduction of the Sun-Cult and Ntoro the Akan female kings lost a great deal of their powers.

Nevertheless the Queenmother was and in some aspect still is the most powerful person in the state. Until today, the Ohemaa still qualify to occupy both the male and female stool of the state. As late as 1959 the Dwabenhemaa Nana Dwaben Amma Serwaa doubled as Dwabenhene, just to mention one example out of many. Any Abusua (matrilineal Akan clan) was not only founded, but also led by females. Considerable settlements such as (Dako) Baule, Denkyera, Takyiman and many more were all founded by a female. Women did also lead in wars, Nana Yaa Asantewaa just happen to be the only female leader which is known by the general public. However there are many more female leaders leading their people in wars. Women were generally much more violent and agressive in war.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of Western-Christianity, many believe according to the bible women must be submissive to men. It were rather the European women barely having any rights and were not even allowed to work without permission from their husbands as late as the 1950s. Ask those Euroleans why they don`t live by what they preach? Let them know, we Akans have our own laws and way of life. Even for an Akan woman bearing her husband’s name is a taboo. After stealing our religious symbols, elements of our culture and civilization they still want to tell us they are the civilized ones.

How do you learn something from your student when you taught him the same thing that he is supposed to be teaching you today?

By: Nana Kwabena Agyeman

Reference:
*Eva Meyerowitz – Beliefs of Ancient Akan people in Ghana

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