Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

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

Everyone then gathers in front of the palace under the Mpeni tree. The king sits in full majesty under a double-umbrella that signifies he has power over everyone else.  The site marks the final reconstruction of society and the historical movement of the capital three times.  Here the royal ancestors are linked to all the townspeople: each day of Odwira, mashed yam is sprinkled from the palace stool-room to this tree whose roots reach metaphorically to every family in Akuropon and whose shade represents the peace and coolness of the kingdom.  A gold covered stool, symbolic of the wealth and glory of the kingdom, is displayed.  The central support is carved in the form of an elephant, the most powerful animal of the forest.  Libation is poured to signify the end of a journey, the chiefs wish the king a happy new year, and the executioners recite verses of the king’s brave deeds a public display of the king’s power.  The king is shown as a living ruler as well as ancestor, holding together the diversities of the kingdom.