Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Okyeame poma (counselor’s staff), Abeadze Dominase, Fante, Ghana, 1975. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

This counselor’s staff motif demonstrates that power should be exercised judiciously and with precision. We see here that the leopard has overpowered the hunter and taken his rifle away. The Akan say of this image “it is better not to have fired at all than to fire and only wound the leopard.” This message is related to another common linguist staff finial depicting a hand holding an egg. As recorded by Kyerematen (1964: 96) its meaning is explained by the saying, “To be a ruler is like holding an egg in the hand; if it is pressed too hard, it breaks; but if not held tightly enough, it may slip and smash on the ground” (Ross 1984: fig. 22).