Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Abosodee (sword ornament), Ejisu, AsanteGhana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

The lion is found as a sword ornament in three of the fourteen Asante states. It is, however, an unlikely presence in Asante royal iconography. The lion was not found in their heavily forested environment until the image of the lion was introduced by European colonial powers, especially the British. The leopard reigned supreme in older Akan arts. It was slowly replaced by the lion between about 1850 and 1920 (see Ross 1982b). This historical process is revealed in a Fante proverb that states, “Until the lion, the leopard ruled the forest.” This may be one of the shortest parables on colonization anywhere. At Ejisu the lion sword ornament prompted the maxim, “If the lion has no intention to attack, it will not show its teeth before you.”