1080 x 723 Akan Leadership Arts, Page 18 - Art & Life in Africa - The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Ntakrakye (chief sword-bearer’s headdress), Kokofu, AsanteGhana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.


The carrier of the most important sword of many Asante states wears an elaborate eagle-feathered headdress adorned with gold, silver, and ivory talismans. Largest of these ornaments are a pair of cast gold ram's horns illustrating the proverb, “A ram fights with its heart, not its horns,” i.e. strength of character is more important than the power of one's weapons. Also common on these headdresses are cast gold depictions of opease (a plant), which rejuvenates quickly after being cut, prompting the Asante to say that, “the plant never dies.” After the royal stools, the state swords are the most important regalia items. They are categorized in a complex hierarchy for a variety of ritual functions, the most important of which is swearing an oath of allegiance to the paramount chief.