Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Nana Oduro Numapau Essumeja, AsanteGhana, 1979. Photo by Doran H. Ross.


The paramount chief of the Asante state of Essumeja wears a cloth appliquéd from European produced fabrics rather than a handwoven textile as in images two and three of the Ejisuhene (pages nine and ten of this essay). The cloth seen here is of the type called akunitan or “cloth of the great.” This chief wears many of the same elements as in the preceding example including a porcupine ring. In addition, he also wears Islamic amulets around his ankles and as a triangular pendant around his neck. While few Asante are Moslem they have had contact with Islamic populations for three centuries and have invoked select aspects of the religion for protective purposes during much of that time. This chief is also sitting on another European derived chair called locally asipim, interpreted as “I stand firm,” a reference to the stability of chieftaincy. The footrest is said to contain the heads of defeated enemies from the 19th century.