Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

Akropong-Akwapim (Akuapem) Odwira festival, Ghana. Photo by Michelle Gilbert, 1995.

On Odwira Tuesday the new yam is introduced by the lineage of one of the first families to settle in Akuropon.  A young man runs down the main street of town carrying a large new yam while others rush to break off small pieces to take home.  Now everyone may eat yam.  Yam is considered the first and only “real” food.  This rite marks the change from hunting to settled farming and the founding of the town.  On Tuesday morning also, the king’s wooden stools on which he sits are washed in a palace courtyard.  These stools symbolically represent the royal black stools in the palace stool room.  The idea is that just as the living wash before eating, so too must the ancestors.  Brass bells, tied to two of the king’s stools, are rung to arouse the ancestors and to warn the king of danger.