Sika dwa kofi (Golden Stool), Asante people

Sika dwa kofi (Golden Stool), Asante people


(introductory piano music) – [Narrator 1] We’re at the
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology
and Anthropology talking about the Golden Stool. We’re actually going to
be looking at several different objects to make sense of this very important object
that we don’t have in a collection, it still
exists in the Asante Nation in Ghana. – [Narrator 2] It was
incredibly important to the Asante people that that
object remained in their possession but that’s a
story we’ll come back to. Let’s talk about its origin. – In the early 1700s a man named Osei Tutu, an important
king, was able to unify all the surrounding lands. – He created the nation
of the Asante people. – The Golden Stool falls
from the sky and lands in the lap of Osei Tutu. – So this is a miracle. – Absolutely. And this is a wooden stool covered in gold which was said to have
been made in the heavens. It’s said to be the soul
of the Asante nation, so it takes on the essence
of the entire group. In the same way that
we’ll see a man’s stool or a woman’s stool can take
on the essence of that person. – So in a way the stool
is more important than any single king of the Asante people. – It is far more sacred
than the Asantehene himself. And in fact the Golden
Stool is always given its own stool or its own
chair in which to sit next to the Asantehene like
we see in this picture. – This is an area that is
rich in gold and the gold comes to symbolize royalty
for the Asante people. – They were in charge of the gold trade through North Africa. This was long before
Europeans were even there. But also gold is the color
of royalty so whether its gold in the form of a textile color or its the material of gold,
it was reserved for royal use. – So let’s look at the
objects in this case that relate to the trading of gold. – We have a scale which
shows how gold would have been weighed. And it would have been weighed with brass. – So you would use these
on one side of the scale and measure out the gold on the other so that you knew you were
measuring the accurate amount of gold. – What we find is a whole
host of brass weights fashioned into very elaborate figures that depict almost every activity and every part of daily life. – So it’s a really
wonderful way to learn about the Asante people. We see two here that show
images of the Asante king. – Both of these depict a
group of figures gathered around a central umbrella. That umbrella is really
important because underneath it we know is the Asantehene
or an important chief. – So the umbrella was a
way that you could identify the king in a crowd. – The king would also be wearing sandals. And we have a brass weight
of just sandals depicted. And in that sense we can
understand that the king is divine. In other words, he is seen
as an intermediary between the everyday lives of his people
and the supernatural realm. He’s there to harness
the good powers of the supernatural to help his people. – He’s between the heavens,
below the umbrella, but he’s above the earth,
symbolized by the sandals that he wears. – So he’s always
sandwiched between the two. – In one of these gold weights we see the king surrounded by his
retinue under an umbrella being carried in a palanquin. And surrounding him are his swordbearers. Swords are very important symbols of rule and they would have had gold handles. – And then we see next to it another image of the king, this time with
his wife, with the queen. – Could be the queen mother,
it could be his wife, there’s an umbrella, and
then two swordbearers in front of him. We also have other brass
weights that just depict one figure and these relate
to particular proverbs or stories about virtues. And here we get at this
important part about Asante modes of communication. That is that you don’t
speak directly, if you can you let art speak directly for you. – And you often speak in proverbs. – Yeah, so each one of these have messages if you understand this
language, if you can decode it. You can know what the messages are. – So one of the ones in the
case shows two crocodiles sharing one stomach. – And this double-headed
crocodile has to do with the idea of family
sharing of stomach. In other words your essence,
your connection, your belly is connected to your family. That’s who nurtures you. So if you go off on your
own you’re really not going to get very far in life. – And then we have a goat. – Or a ram with these
curved horns and one proverb states that rams move
back before they charge so the idea is that you have
thoughtful contemplation, you move away from what you’re about to do to make sure it’s the right path. – So we’re looking at these gold weights and that brings us to another important part of the history of the Asante people. The continuing involvement of the British. – The British, certainly
since the beginning of the early 19th century, were
interested in securing a way to control gold in this area. And they named this area the Gold Coast. The Asante, obviously,
were not wanting to give up their control of this
precious material which had this royal significance. – And in 1874, the British
destroyed the Asante capital, took lots back to England,
much of it remains in the British Museum collection today. And one of the objects of
course that they really wanted to get their hands
on was the Golden Stool. They first exiled Prempeh
I, that was the Asantehene in the late 1800s. – The Asante people hid the Golden Stool. – The Golden Stool, which
was obviously very important, in fact, more sacred
than Prempeh I himself, was in the danger. And the British tried
very hard to hunt it down. – The British governor
said, and I’m reading here, from a record of what happened, he said, where is the Golden Stool? I am the representative
of the paramount power. Why have you relegated me
to this ordinary chair? Why did you not take the
opportunity of my coming to bring the Golden
Stool for me to sit upon? – This was so offensive
to the people of Ghana that a foreigner would
come and demand their most precious and sacred object to sit on. This is not a stool anyone
was allowed to sit on, in fact, it sat on its own stool. So Yaa Asantewaa, a queen mother,
assembled all the soldiers she could find to fight
against the British. – Now the Asante people
were defeated but the stool remained hidden. – The Asante were pretty
successful in that they were allowed some autonomy. And by the 1920s the
British even agreed to allow Prempeh I to return
and there was a promise made that the Golden
Stool would not be taken and the Golden Stool was
allowed to come out of hiding. Men and women are gifted
stools by their parents when they come of age and
the idea of stools is really central not just to kingship,
but to everyday people. And this brass weight in this
case is a replica of what a man or woman would
sit on but made of wood. So a man or woman’s everyday
stool made for things like sitting and socializing,
sitting and eating, sitting and working, it
sounds very ordinary to us, but stools that one uses
often take on their soon soon. Soon soon is a Asante
concept or traditional idea that your energy, it’s like an
aura that touches the things you use a lot. So in order to keep your soon soon intact, when you leave the room,
traditionally, you would tip over your stool so that no
one else would sit on it. They would know that that
was not intended for you. In that sense the Golden
Stool is also kept turned on its side as we see in this photograph. – So the gold weight tells
us something about the importance of stools in the Asante culture but also about a personal
energy that over the course of our lives, the objects
that we use become imbued with. – That helps us to understand
why the Asante people say the Golden Stool is the
soul of the Asante nation. (light piano outro music)

22 Comments

  1. All this gold are there and am suffering,when the British came to Ghana,all they care was the gold and not the people,and after their loot,they left ghana in a pit.
    This british…

  2. Please visit the main Ashanti Kingdom Palace at Manhyia in Kumasi, Ghana. To my great great grand parents, the history is intoxicated by the British over the causes of the war. The Ashanti militia WON the first main war. The British was very shame. So they brought in another militia from their colonies, Indians, The colonial majors in South African to ambush the Kumasi metropol. How can any nation declare win over no engagement of war agreement. The British did not declare any war on their second stage. They where ashamed that they lost the first encounter. Tropical Mosquitos, malaria, vomiting, panic seeing snacks & other animals, Ashanti mask with traditional werpons. The Ashanti militia had The Holland guns & rifles firearms sparkles lights. Don't forget the West Indian traders from Holland has exchanged many firearms for gold dust from the Ashanti Kingdom years back before the British came to gold coast. There were so many funny behaviours we still laugh of today. But the sad thing was when fever or malaria etc attack the soldiers at their camp, they die sadly in moments. The Africans was immune to many of the disease. In fact the main Ashanti men was planners of the war, but their Northern Soldiers from Tamale, Hausa, Bolgatanga, Frafra, Dagombas, etc strong men using horses, arrows, strong fearless tall mask, well build macho men fought against the British. So Ashanti Kingdom totally won the war. What The British media & writers claim was to defend their shame. They lost the war. The Ashanti elders will NOT tell you the truth just to keep the calm friendship between Ghana & The British of today. Its a wisdom in our proverbs, Don't add more firewood to the fire. Meaning don't add more pain to the wounded. Peace is necessary than claim any argument on war.

  3. the queen is never the wife of the occupant of the golden stool. in tradition..the queen is either the female matrilineal cousin of the asantehene,his biological sister, his mother, niece or maternal grandmother. at the end of the day…the queen must be a maternal relative to the king

  4. London is London because of Ghana. Britain is Britain coz of Ghana they don't even mention it in their history.

  5. We have forgotten all out heritage. We have forgotten our Motherland. We have truly forgotten where we come from & who we are. We always say our own is not good,but ours is first be4 others.

  6. Proud to be asante nii can't survive you from your poor situations let them use it to help the youth instead of putting it in room while people's are suffering in kumasi for no reason(the real espanyol Spain)

  7. It's not a wooden stool covered with gold, it's solid gold, please if you going to tell our story of our heritage please do your research well.

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