Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

Akropong-Akwapim (Akuapem) Odwira festival, Ghana. Photo by Michelle Gilbert, 1977.

At the end of the procession, hidden and in silence, the king is carried in a palanquin from the palace to the edge of the town where he is lifted high and displayed: he enters the town from the “outside” as if newly enstooled.  A child representing the king’s “soul” (kra) sits before him wearing an eagle feather headdress.  He protects the king and wards off evil.  The king dances in his palanquin to the beat of the great drums carried behind him.  The “soul-people” (akrafo) carry swords with double boss-shaped hilts that represent the dignity of the kingship.  Born on the same day of the week as the king, they share his soul and his fate: a large gold disk around their neck signifies that formerly were the king to die, they would accompany him to the grave.