Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

Akropong-Akwapim (Akuapem) Odwira festival, Ghana. Photo by Michelle Gilbert, 1989.

Also on Tuesday ritual officials, led by two ancient drums, leave to perform secret rites at Amanprobi.  On their return to Akuropon they stop at houses where the royal ancestral stools were formerly kept.  This is a “royal progress”.  To show “Odwira has arrived”, the ban on sound is lifted.  The ritual officials sing war songs and are welcomed at the palace by the king and townspeople.  The king is dressed in deep mourning.  Then hidden by cloth, the king is anointed with the grave dust of his royal ancestors on his forehead for glory, his chest for bravery, and the small of his back for fertility.  This ancestral essence gives him the power to rule.  People say “Odwira is handed to him”.  The ancestors have arrived in town and people are agitated:  this is an inversion of spatial and moral order.  The king is represented as his ancestor.