Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

Akropong-Akwapim (Akuapem) Odwira festival, Ghana. Photo by Michelle Gilbert, 1992.

Odwira Wednesday is a day of mourning.  It is the “great adae”, the beginning of the new year.  Before sunrise the Queen Mother, dressed in red and black for mourning, comes to the palace and weeps.  Then palace drums sound and all the townspeople grieve because the dead have been brought home.  People drink, but it is a day of fasting.  Later the king, dressed in a war smock covered with amulets, formerly led by his heir-apparent, is “displayed” by young men and women singing war songs (which are associated with royal death).  The king now is symbolically dead.  This also shows the king as warrior and alludes to his ancestors’ role in defending the state.  After midnight the carefully guarded royal black stools are taken to a stream to be cleansed of the pollution that accumulated during the year, as are, separately, the black stools of other important lineages.