Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

Akropong-Akwapim (Akuapem) Odwira festival, Ghana. Photo by Michelle Gilbert, 1994.

Friday morning Akuropon is ritually cleansed by the priest of the main town deity and offerings are given to Mpeni, the large shade tree in front of the palace.  The chief of the king’s clan sends offerings to Nsorem in a small procession.  Then chiefs from all the Akuapem towns come to Akuropon to show their allegiance.  Townspeople line the streets to see the procession of chiefs with their twirling umbrellas, drummers, horn-players, sword bearers with white and gold swords.  The various groups are led by “linguists” who hold black and golden staffs and mediate all verbal discourse.  The black staffs have no finials and are analogous to the black stools.  Gold leaf covered staffs have finials that are carved in a variety of shapes often associated with proverbs; their meaning comes from the interplay between the visual, the proverbial, and the non-verbally implicit.  There may be multiple meanings for any one form.