Saturday, February 2, 2013

AHANTA PEOPLE: GHANA`S SMALL AND RICH TRIBE THAT REBELLED AGAINST THE DUTCH AND THEIR KING`S HEAD WAS DECAPITATED AND STOLEN TO HOLLAND

The Ahantas are an Akan people who live to the north of the Nzema. Ahanta literally means "the land of Twins." The Ahanta land has been historically known as one of the richest areas on the coast of what is now Ghana. The land of  the Ahanta, is what is now the Western Region of the Republic of Ghana, comprised a regional power in the form of a confederacy of chiefdoms which had come in early contact with the European nations settling on the Gold Coast for the purpose of trade. The towns include what the Dutchs referred to as Taccarary  (Takoradi), Sekondi, Cape Three Point, Akwadaa,Busua , Dixcove,Prences etc. Their capital is Sekondi-Takoradi also known as the twin-city.
                                                       Ahanta people

 The Ahantas like their fellow Akan people (Fantes) migrated from the antique Akan kingdom of Bono state. The Ahantas together with the Fantes migrated from Bono kingdom in 1229 when king Obrumankoma,a Fante King that was ruling Bono kingdom died. They Bonos were against the Fante sojourners including the Ahantas who were intelligent hardworking farmers and fishermen.


                            Ahanta fishermen on their way to fishing at Busua,Ghana.

According to the great Fante historian and Folkloric writer Joseph Brandford Crayner, "the Bonos sacked the Fantes over their growing influence and also succeeding in getting themselves enstooled as Kings among the native Bono. The Fantes first had Kunkumfi Ameyaw being chosen as their first king over Bono kingdom."


                               Ahanta fisherman holding a huge fish at  Akwidaa village

"After the death of Obrumankoma, the Bonos decided to have one of their own become a king, the Fantes got angry and decided to leave Tekyiman. Their journey was led by Odapagyan and Oson from Tekyiman to the south. When they reached the back of  River Pra they settled there." Crayner posits that a fante prophet and a priest Okomfo Amina performed a ritual on the assemblage of the Fantes congregated near the river Pra. "In his incantation a whirlwind surrounded the people and took them across the river.

                                       Ahanta fish-mongers selling fish at the Sekondi Fishing Harbor,Ghana.


 Those who were not there could not be transported across the river to the other side." Some of the people who could not cross also moved westwards and towards the south. These are the present day Ahantas and Wassa people. So historically speaking the departure between Ahantas and their Fante brothers or fellow migrants occurred at the back of river Pra.

Crayner again argues that they were other aboriginal people on the Gold coast land called the Mpakowa and Etsii people as well as the remnants of Asebu people living in Moree that went and settled amongs the Ahanta people. Narrating an ancient oral history,Crayner told me recently at his residence in Mankessim that "The Asebu people living in Moree upon war made on them by the Fantes entered the sea to hold the tails of several dolphins and whales that transported them to Busua. This is how come the kings of Busua/Ahantas came to have Bonso (Whale) names.


                       Sekondi Fishing Harbor town of the Ahantas

After the Dutch had driven the Swedish out of Butre, the director general of the Dutch West India Company, with headquarters in St. George d'Elmina in the central Gold Coast, decided that it would be beneficial to negotiate a treaty with the local political leadership in order to establish a peaceful long-term relationship. The Ahanta leaders found it equally beneficial to enter into such an agreement. The 1656 treaty signalled the definitive switch in European jurisdiction in the area until 1872.

                                               Butre River,Western Ghana

The Treaty of Butre between the Netherlands and Ahanta was signed at Butre (historical spelling: Boutry), Dutch Gold Coast on 27 August 1656. The treaty regulated the jurisdiction of the Netherlands and the Dutch West India Company over the town of Butre and the surrounding country of Upper Ahanta, creating a Dutch protectorate over the area. The treaty lasted until the Dutch departure from the Gold Coast in April 1872.

                    Sekondi Fishing Harbor,Ahanta town


The treaty and the terms of the protectorate turned out to be very stable, most likely in part because the Dutch never had the intention to interfere in the affairs of the Ahanta states. That is, except for the town of Butre, where they built a fort (Fort Batenstein). The treaty could be interpreted as a treaty of friendship and cooperation, rather than as a treaty establishing a Dutch protectorate. The Dutch worked in close cooperation with the local chief, who was also second in line in the political leadership of what became known as the Kingdom of Ahanta and had its capital at the nearby seaside town of Busua.
                                     Ahanta people in carnival dress (fancy dress),at Busua

 The relationship between the Ahanta and the Dutch was at times volatile. This includes when an Ahanta chief seized one of the forts the Dutch were using for trading, including slave trading, and resisted the cannon fire of ships and fought off a regiment of 120 soldiers. This history if this is still celebrated today in Jamaica under the name Jonkanoo.


In 1837 the king of Ahanta, Baidoo Bonsoe II (Badu Bonsu II), rebelled against the Dutch government and killed several officers, including acting governor Hendrik Tonneboeijer because of his dislike of how the Dutch operated in his region. The Dutch government used the treaty as the basis for military action and an expeditionary force was sent to Ahanta. In the war that followed King Baidoo Bonsoe II was killed and had his head taken/used for experiments at Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands. The head was later returned in 2009 .
The Dutch reorganised the Ahanta state, after the rebellion, appointing the chief of Butre as regent, keeping the country under close control with an enlarged military and civilian presence.
                                         Queen mother of Busua in her traditional regalia

When the Dutch transferred their possessions on the Gold Coast to the British on 6 April 1872, the treaty of 1656 was still in effect, having regulated political relations between the Dutch and Ahanta for more than 213 years. The treaty was one of the oldest and one of the longest functioning treaties between an African and a European state.




                                            Port of Dixcove,Ahanta town

With the Dutch possessions, the British took over all legal obligations including the existing treaties and contracts. After the transfer the British started to develop their own policies towards the now united Gold Coast possessions. Ahanta resisted the British take-over, with the result that the British Royal Navy bombed Butre in 1873 to achieve a political submission. In 1874 Britain declared the entire Gold Coast – including Ahanta – a Crown Colony, de jure and de facto ending all former diplomatic and legal obligations.
                                          Ahanta chief of Akwadaa


The Ahanta people celebrate the Kundum festival. Kundum is a harvest festival and involves dancing, drumming, and feasting. It was in its original state a religious festival that was used to expel evil spirits from the town.
                    An elated Ahanta woman dancing at a Kundum festival, busua, west coast, Ghana

 Today, Kundum is celebrated as a way to preserve the culture of the Ahanta people and neighboring Nzema. The festival previously was one month long but, has recently been condensed to eight days.



Avudwene satirical songs are performed in the Nzema annual Kundum festival. The festival is celebrated by the Ahanta and Nzema people of south-west Ghana (Agovi 1979), who occupy a contiguous coastal strip of land from Sekondi-Takoradi to Half-Assini in the Western Region of Ghana. They are members of the Bia language group (Kropp-Dakubu 1988: 50–76) and share the same Kundum festival as a common cultural event.
Since the early seventeenth century when the festival was first recorded in European records (Bosman 1967: 158), writers have always drawn attention to its dominant religious focus and links with other festivals in Ghana (Rattray 1924: 151–5). On the other hand, its singular feature of satirical songs significantly reveals a concern with secular issues. It deals exclusively with historical, political and socio-economic developments in Ahanta—Nzema society. For this essay, the socio-political concerns of the songs have been isolated for analysis.
Several writers have drawn attention to the close relationship between African orature, politics and the traditional state. According to Ruth Finnegan (1970: 82), the patronage of poets in centralised political systems in the past led to the creation of a ‘poetry of profound political significance as a means of political propaganda, pressure or communication’; such poetry includes songs of insult, challenge or satirical comment used as ‘politically effective weapons’ (1970: 172).



                        Ahanta people of Akwidaa,Ghana in their traditional dress dancing at a Kundum festival

.Ahantas practice traditional African religion, Christianity, and Islam to a lesser extent.  The Ahantas believe in Odomankoma Nana Nyankopon,Nyame mu Enyame (Almighty Creator God, The Lord among the gods).They also have the same family or clan system like all the other Akans.

further info on Ahantas here:http://www.docstoc.com/docs/111015275/Axim-Bank#centerdoc
                       Ahanta woman carrying her baby on her back at Akwidaa village,Western Ghana.


                 Beautiful Beach at Akwidaa,an ancient Ahanta village

                                    THE HEAD OF KING BADU BONSU II

The time Magazine`s May,10th 2011 edition carried a story captioned "Top 10 Stolen Body Parts" put the story of "The head of King Badu Bonsu II" at the number 9 spot. The story written by Christopher Shay states that "In 1838, after decapitating two Dutch emissaries and decorating his throne with their heads, King Badu Bonsu II, the ruler of the Ahanta tribe in present day Ghana, was himself beheaded by Dutch soldiers.

                                                    King Badu Bonsu II

 For more than 150 years, King Bonsu's head was lost until an author found it stored in a jar of formaldehyde in a Dutch museum. Ghana immediately asked for the King's severed head back and, in July 2009, members of the Ahanta flew to The Hague and staged a mourning ceremony that included pouring gin libations on the floor of the Foreign Ministry before taking the head back to Ghana."


Below is how London Telegraph carried the story


Dutch return 171-year-old severed head to Ghana

The descendants of an African chief who was hanged and decapitated by a Dutch general 171 years ago have reluctantly accepted the return of his severed head, still angry even as the Dutch tried to right a wrong.

Dutch return 171-year-old severed head to Ghana
On Thursday, members of the king's Ahanta tribe, dressed in dark robes and wearing red sashes, took part in the handover ceremony Photo: EPA

The head of King Badu Bonsu II was discovered last year in a jar of formaldehyde gathering dust in the anatomical collection of the Leiden University Medical Centre. The Dutch government, embarrassed by its discovery, agreed to Ghanaian demands that the relic be returned.
On Thursday, members of the king's Ahanta tribe, dressed in dark robes and wearing red sashes, took part in the handover ceremony, honouring his spirit by toasting with Dutch gin and then sprinkling the drink over the floor at the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
But descendants of the chief said they were not consoled.
"I am hurt, angry. My grandfather has been killed," said Joseph Jones Amoah, the great, great grandson of the chief.
The chief's head was stored elsewhere at the ministry and was not displayed during the ceremony. It is expected to be flown with the tribe members back to Ghana on Friday.
Tribal elders said after the handover that they were also angry because they had been sent by their current chief only to identify the head, not retrieve it. Taking it back without first reporting to the chief would be a breach of protocol, they said.
"We, the Ahanta, are not happy at all," said Nana Etsin Kofi II.
The head was taken by Maj. Gen. Jan Verveer in 1838 in retaliation for Bonsu's killing of two Dutch emissaries, whose heads were displayed as trophies on Bonsu's throne, said Arthur Japin, a Dutch author who discovered the king's head when he was working on a historical novel.
The elders demanded the Dutch government provide aid to their tribe to appease the slain chief.
Nana Kwekwe Darko III, who tipped the gin onto the floor according to tradition, dabbed tears from his eyes afterward and said he wanted the Dutch to build schools and hospitals for his people.
Ministry spokesman Bart Rijs said that 10 tribal chiefs who came from Ghana had agreed before the ceremony to take the head home. The official transfer was between the two countries' governments, he said.
Ezile bay, white sandy beach boasting calm sea,Akwidaa,Ghana
Cape Three Points Area
Ezile River, cape three points ghana
On the western coast of Ghana there is a bit of paradise in what the Ahanta people call Ahanta land. At the center of this is Cape Three Points which is a cape complex with lush forests, agriculture, beaches, and villages. I call the whole area for the sake of this article the Cape Three Points Area. 
        Katakor beach (LP's), near Ezile bay village, Akwidaa, surfing in Ghana
This has become a popular place for tourists but by no means is it crowded yet. The draw here is the endless miles of splendid empty beaches edged by rain forest, palms and jungle. Starting from Butre there are trails that will take you all the way to Axim if you wish. 
There are wonderful lodges, and eco-lodges along the way to break up the trips. Bikes can be rented at a number of lodges in the area included Green Turtle Lodge, and Escape3points. Other highlights of the area are canoeing through the mangroves on the Ezile River near Akwidaa, hiking in the Cape Three Points Reserve, climbing the lighthouse at Cape Three Points Village and just enjoying the endless beaches.

                        Kids at Ezile Bay village watching the surfers
                               Katakor, near Ezile bay, spot to surf, called also LP's
              Akwidaa vu d'Ezile bay the most secluded and crowd-free beach in Ghana.




                Sekondi Fishing harbor town


   Chalet at Busua beach,Ghana


                 Sekondi Fishing Harbor Town




3 comments:

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