Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, Asantehene, Asante peoples, Kumase, Ghana, 1995. Photo by Frank Fournier. 

The Asantehene is seen here seated at the Kumase Sports Stadium during the Akwasidae Kesee Durbar celebrating the Silver Jubilee (25th year) of his reign. To his left is the Sika Dwa Kofi (Golden Stool born on Friday) seated on its own chair (see page eight of this essay). In front and to both sides of the Asantehene are his sword bearers. To his immediate right in the feathered headdress (see page eighteen of this essay) is the bearer of the most important sword of the kingdom, the mponponsuo, which is often translated as “responsibility.” It is with this sword that the Asantehene swears allegiance to his people and to serve them with his best efforts. The sword features a leopard skin hilt and sheath and is adorned with a cast gold ornament of a gaboon viper (barely visible) holding a hornbill bird in its mouth, which depicts a folktale that celebrates the value of patience (see Ross 1978).