Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Okyeame poma (counselor’s staff), Kumase, AsanteGhana, 1980. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

The continuity of chieftaincy and the ruling family is an important theme of several staff finials. The finial seen here from the Asantehene's treasury represents what is probably the single most common motif on counselors' staffs—two men seated at a table with one reaching into a bowl. It depicts the saying, “The food is for the man who owns it and not for the man who is hungry.” Food here is a metaphor for chieftaincy, which is for the rightful heir and not for one who just hungers for power. This staff was carved ca. 1960 by Osei Bonsu (1900-1978), chief carver to three successive Asantehenes (see Ross 1984).