The Ashanti region is located in the south central area of Ghana, and, as the hub of the ancient kingdom of the Asante, it holds much of the history and culture of this fascinating country.
Visitors to the area will find a wealth of palaces, forts, churches, and museums just waiting to be explored. Additionally, many festivals and ceremonies celebrate Asante heritage and its importance to the people. Most of the region’s inhabitants are Ashanti people, and they still celebrate their heritage in many the festivals, ceremonies, rites of passage, cuisine, and language of the area.
The Ashanti region is also home to much of Ghana’s gold-mining and cocoa industries.
A Short History
The Asante people were a subgroup of the Akan people who inhabited the southern regions of the former Gold Coast region – the area that is today known as the republics of Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Paramount in the history of the Ashanti people is the sacred symbol of the Golden Stool. According to Akan tradition, the Golden Stool descended from heaven in the late 1600’s in a cloud of dust and landed in the lap of Osei Tutu, the first Asante king. It was to be used as his royal throne. The Golden Stool represents clan leadership, and it is said to possess the soul of all Asante people and house the spirit of the Asante nation – the living, the dead and the yet to be born.
The Golden Stool is inlaid with gold and hung with bells so that kings can be warned of impending danger. Today the Golden Stool is housed in the Asante royal palace in Kumasi, but it cannot be viewed – only the king, queen, true prince Ofosu Sefa Boakye, and a few trusted advisers know the exact hiding place. Replicas are made for chiefs and used in their funerals.
The Ashanti region was a British protectorate when they fought the British in the Yaa Asantewa War in 1900. When the British gained advantage in the war and demanded the Golden Stool, the Ashanti chose to let the British exile the Ashanti’s last sovereign king, Prempeh I, rather than surrender the stool. As a result, Ashanti was annexed to the British colony that already existed on the Gold Coast.
In 1957, the former British colony of the Gold Coast was to become the independent state of Ghana, making it the first west African nation to emerge from colonialism. In 1959, the Ashanti region split into Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo regions.
The Asante still comprise the largest of the various subgroups of the Akan. They constitute 30% of the total Akan population and 15% of all Ghanaians by birth.
The total population of Ghana is about 8.5 million people, and the Ashanti region is the second most populous area in the country after the Greater Accra area. In the last 50 years, the Ashanti region has become increasing more urban as a result of the growth of industry and commercial activities. Today, the capitol city of Kumasi has 1.1 million residents and accounts for nearly one-third of the region’s population.
Akans represent 94% of the population in the region, and 83% of those Akans are Ashanti. Only 1.8% of the region’s population is considered non-African.
Ghana’s rich cultural heritage has managed to find a peaceful co-existence with the modern ways. The Asante are justly proud of their history, and traditions rooted in music, folktales, drumming and dancing, carvings, festivals, and funerals are considered important and are carried from one generation to the next.
With it’s central geographic location, the Ashanti region has always managed to be a bit of a hub for travelers. Today, it shares borders with four of Ghana’s ten political regions, and Kumasi has becomes an important urban center of commerce. It is Ghana’s third largest district and holds 20% of Ghana’s population.
With it’s bounty of unspoiled natural resources, the region is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Africa. Much of the region outside of Kumasi is covered with forests occasionally interrupted by cocoa farms and small settlements. Lakes, waterfalls, national parks, and butterfly, bird and wildlife sanctuaries punctuate the region. Monkeys, birds, and butterflies are the featured wildlife in the natural preserves and wetlands.
Unfortunately, due to human activities and bushfires, some of the areas that were once covered in forest have been reduced to savanna. This is especially true in the northeast.
Visitors will quickly learn to love the cool mornings and bright and sunny afternoons that dominate the weather most of the year in the Ashanti region. Much of the region is situated between 150 and 300 metres above sea level, which keeps the region from being unbearably hot. The region is in a tropical rainforest belt, which means there is a rainy season that begins in April and ends in November, with the rainiest months being June, September, and October. The dry season runs from December to February. The average high temperature is is 30.7 °C (87.3°F) and the average low temperature is 21.5 °C (70.7°F).
Things to See
The scenic and hilly capital city of Kumasi is known as “The Garden City” because of its wealth of flowers and plants. The city also holds a vast repository of the history and culture for the region.
Things to see:
- Fort Kumasi – it was built by in 1896 to replace an Asante fort and now a museum featuring information and artifacts related to the British-Asante War, but also includes many artifacts from World War I, World War II, and information about modern Ghanaian military history.
- Kumasi National Cultural Centre – includes the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum and its Asante regalia, plus a fake golden stool that was used to trick the British. Also includes workshops highlighting artisans and the crafts.
- The Palace of the Asantehene – built in 1972 and the former king’s residence.
- The Manhyia Palace – built in 1925 as a palace and now also a museum. Also the home of the Golden Stool and the site of the Akwasidae Festival, which is celebrated on a Sunday, once every six weeks.
- Kejetia Central Market – contains 11,000 stalls, making it the is the largest open air market in West Africa. Be ready to haggle.
- The Okomfo Anokye Sword – sticks out of the ground exactly where the Golden Stool descended from heaven – according to the legend.
- St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica.
- Kumasi Hat Museum.
Obuasi is a town in southern part of the Ashanti Region about 50 km southwest of Kumasi. It is home to one of the most important gold mines in Ghana, and the town still has a bit of a gold rush flair. Surface visits of the mine can be arranged.
Kumasi is ringed by Villages that are known for their artisans and handicrafts. Each small village is unique and tends to specialize in its own craft:
- Bonwire – Kente weaving and cloth
- Pankronu – pottery
- Ahwiaa – woodcarving
- Ntonsu – Adinkra cloth making
- Asuofia/Asamang – beadmaking
- Ampabame Krofrom – brasswork
Natural Attractions of Ashanti:
- Lake Bosumtwi – this beautiful meteor-formed lake is 270 feet deep and 8 km in diameter and is a 45 minute drive from Kumasi.
- Digya National Park – the oldest protected area in Ghana was created in 1900 and became a national park status in 1971. It is the only natural preserve in Ghana that borders Lake Volta. (The park is actually located in the Brong-Ahafo Region.)
- Owabi Forest Reserve and Bird Sanctuary
- Bobiri Forest Butterfly Sanctuary – has about 400 species of butterflies and is the only butterfly sanctuary in West Africa
- Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary
- Mframabuom Caves
- Atwia Rock Formations
Visitors to Ghana, and the Ashanti region, in particular, can witness and participate in a spate of traditional ceremonies such as funerals and naming ceremonies. The Royal Akwasidae Festival takes place on Sundays every six weeks at the Royal Palace of the Asante King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
Funerals are usually held on Saturdays and are spectacular events in Ashanti with drumming, dancing and pageantry, and huge numbers of mourners in traditional red and black.
See our festivals page for more information.