Art and Centralized Power

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Sika Dwa Kofi (the Golden Stool of Asante), Asante peoples, Kumase, Ghana, 1995. Photo by Frank Fournier.

 

Many African kingdoms possess one particular object that embodies the soul of the entire nation, a microcosm of religious and political values observable on a broader level. Akan kingdoms in Ghana including the Asante, enshrine such spiritual authority in a golden stool, which is viewed as a living person, "a sacrosanct being that houses the soul and spirit of the Asante people" (Fraser 1972: 142). While there are many items in royal treasuries, the golden stool is the most important ritual object in the custody of the king. The stool is regarded as the common heritage of all Asante people and is capable of protecting the nation in times of need. The stool is displayed only on the occasion of a king's investiture or at royal receptions. It is treated as an individual of the highest rank, given its own throne (for it must never touch the ground) and its own regalia, which include state umbrellas, a gold-plated drum, a shield, and its own bodyguard and attendants.