History: All you need to know about Manhyia and Asantes

His Royal Majesty - Otumfuo Osei Tutu II

Manhyia Palace

The Manhyia Palace

The Manhyia Palace is the seat of the Asantehene, as well as his official residence. It is located at Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom and Ashanti Region. The first palace is now a museum. King Opoku Ware II built the new palace, which is close to the old one and is used by the current Asantehene, King Osei Tutu II.


The palace was built in 1925 by the British sometime after the Third Anglo-Ashanti War in 1874 when the British had destroyed the original palace built by Ghanaians. The British were said to have been impressed by the size of the original palace and the scope of its contents, which included “rows of books in many languages, but due to events in the War of the Golden Stool. The British demolished the royal palace with explosives. The palace consequently erected is a kilometre from the Centre for National Culture, Kumasi.

Upon the return from exile of the Asantehene Nana Prempeh I from the Seychelles Islands, the building was offered to him for use as his residence. This was because, before the Asantehene’s exile, his old palace had been burnt down in the Yaa Asentewa War. The war was fought between the British and the Asantes because of the refusal of the Asantehene to offer the Golden stool to the then governor of the Gold Coast. Prempeh I only accepted the offer after he had paid for the cost of the building in full. Two kings lived in the palace, namely Otumfuo Prempeh I and Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, KBE, the 13th and 14th Kings of the Asante nation.

The old palace was converted into a museum in 1995 after the new palace was built. Opoku Ware II was the first king to live in the new palace, which he occupied until his death in 1999. The current Asantehene, Osei Tutu II, currently resides in the new palace.

Major activities

The palace courtyard hosts numerous important Asante traditional events. These include the Adae festival, which occurs every sixth Sunday when the Asantehene receives homage from his subjects and subservient chiefs.

Manhyia Palace Museum

The Manhyia Palace Museum

The palace built by the British after the “War of the Golden Stool”, was converted into a museum and officially opened on 12 August 1995 by the then King, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II. The opening of the museum was part of activities that marked the Silver Jubilee of his accession to the Golden Stool. This palace was used as the office of the Kings. It served as Administrative headquarters of Asante Nation from 1925 to 1974 until Otumfuo Opoku Ware II moved from this office to the new residence at Manhyia. Several artefacts are displayed in the museum. They include furniture used by the Kings, the bronze head of Nana Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II and a sketch map of the Asanteman. There is also Asanteman’s first television at the museum, as well as life-sized wax effigies of some of the kings and queens of Asanteman.


The architecture of the palace is akin to the Kingdom of Asante building plans of the early 1900s. The palace is a two-storey building. Both floors have open verandas, giving a view of the palace’s environs. In 1995, an outhouse was added to the original palace to serve as a gift shop. The palace has a large courtyard, and it showcases statues of past great kings and queens of the Ashanti.

ADINKRA – Cultural Symbols of the Asante people.


The Adinkra symbols are believed to have their origin from Gyaman, a former kingdom in today’s Côte D’Ivoire.

According to an Asante (Ghana) legend, Adinkra was the name of a king of the Gyaman (Nana Kofi Adinkra). Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle by the Asantes for having copied the “Golden Stool”, which represents for them absolute power and tribal cohesion. He was finally killed and his territory annexed to the kingdom of Asante.

The tradition had it that Nana Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being taken to Kumasi the capital of Asante.

The Asante people around the 19th century then took to painting of traditional symbols of the Gyamans onto cloth, a tradition that was well practised by the latter.

Adinkra also means ‘goodbye’ or ‘farewell’ in Twi the language of the Akan ethnic group of which Asante is a part. It has therefore been the tradition of the Akan especially the Asante to wear cloths decorated with Adinkra symbols on important occasions especially at funerals of family relations and friends. This is to signify their sorrow and to bid farewell to the deceased.

Today, the Adinkra cloth is not exclusively worn by the Asante people. It is worn by other ethnic groups in Ghana on a variety of social gatherings and festive occasions.


The Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante. They mostly have rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play a major role in the Asante culture. The use of Proverbs is considered as a mark of wisdom.

Other Adinkra symbols depict historical events, human behaviour and attitudes, animal behaviour, plant life forms and shapes of objects.

In fact, the Adinkra symbols continue to change as new influences impact on Ghanaian culture as some of the symbols now record specific technological developments.

The Adinkra cloth

The Adinkra cloth is stamped or printed with Adinkra symbols. It is one of the few examples of traditional cloths in Africa.

The Adinkra cloth was hitherto the preserve of the royalty and spiritual leaders of the Asantes. They wore it during significant sacred ceremonies. Today the Adinkra cloth is used for a broad range of social activities such as festivals, marriage, and naming ceremonies among others.


The three most important funerary Adinkra is the dark – brown (Kunz tunk uni) the brick – red (kobene) and the black (brisi).

There are, however, other forms of which cannot be properly called mourning cloth.

Their bright and light backgrounds classify them as 3 Kwasiada Adinkra or Sunday Adinkra meaning fancy cloths which cannot be suitable for funerary contents but appropriate for most festive occasions or even daily wear.

Other uses of the Adinkra symbols

Adinkra symbols can be described as small, symbolic pictures or motives used to decorate colorfully patterned cloth by fashion designers in Ghana.

Designers in modern times use Adinkra symbols in creating and decorating other accessories than cloth.

Other artisans/crafts men such as sculptors, carpenters, and architects also use the symbols to design their products. Some corporate institutions in Ghana now use the

Adinkra symbols as their institutional Symbol or Logo.

Adinkra Printing

The Asante people have developed their unique art of adinkra printing. They use two traditional printing methods; the block-stamp technique, which involves the use of wooden or metal stamps and the screenprinting.

The Adinkra cloth was originally printed from hand carved stamps from calabash or gourd (apakyiwa). The dye or ink (adinkra aduru) for printing is derived from the bark of the Badie and the roots of the kuntunkuni trees. The bark and roots are soaked in water for days to soften. They are then pounded to increase the softening process.

The 4 Badie bark is boiled with iron scraps.

When the colour (deep brown) emerges from the pulp, it is sieved and engraved onto a piece of calabash or pot.

The kuntunkuni roots are also boiled into a dark solution to dye the cloth black. The Cloth is dipped and soaked in the solution. It has to be dried several times before it turns completely black.

The cloth is normally dyed in either red or black.

For the red Adinkra cloth, a chemical called Sudi is used instead of the kuntunkuni root.

The Stamps The various stamps carved from the calabash are tinted with dye and pressed in sequence onto plain cotton cloth, pegged on the ground. Today raised platforms with a sack covering act as the printing table.

In recent times imported cloth is used as the background of the cloth. Sometimes the various symbols are used on one fabric, and this also has its significance.

The designing is done according to the message the wearer or owner of the cloth intends to convey to the participants of the event. The quality of the cloth also shows the status of the one wearing it.

The original Adinkra cloth is not meant to be washed since it faded easily as a result of the original ink used without any chemical additives.

Today, other types of cloth are used with the same adinkra motives but stamped in indelible colours using the batik method.

Ntonso, a town in the Ashanti Region is noted for Adinkra cloth production. It is popularly acknowledged as the “Home of Adinkra.”


The several bright colours of red, yellow, white, blue, etc. of the Kwasiada Adinkra project the festive nature of the day.

Sundays are usually characterised by drumming and dancing, playing of “Owari” and “Dame” (traditional games and other exciting social and religious activities.

In contrast to the above is the dark and dull colours of black, dark – brown and brick red which are the make-up of the “Birisi”, “Kuntunkuni” and “Kobene” cloths.

Black for instance among the Asantes evokes an aesthetic response of sadness and hopelessness; the red colour is normally associated with blood and death.

That is why during funerals Kobene, in particular, is worn by the closest relatives to show how aggrieved they were and the others appear in different cloths Kobene is also worn during the Asantehene’s funeral or when there is a national calamity.

The Omanhene of Abeadze of Domenase said the cloth means “our eyes are red”.

Adinkra Symbols and their meaning (English and Twi)

Below is a table displaying in alphabetical order some of the old and new Adinkra and other cultural symbols. They have been arranged by names in Twi, literal translation in English, significance and proverbial meaning where available.


List of rulers of Asante

The Asantehene is the absolute monarch of the Kingdom of Ashanti, its cultural region Ashantiland, and of the Ashanti (or Asante) people’s ethnic group. The Ashanti royal house traces its line to the Oyoko (an Abusua, meaning ‘clan’) Abohyen Dynasty of Nana Twum and the Beretuo Dynasty of Osei Tutu Opemsoo, who formed the Empire of Ashanti in 1701 and was crowned Asantehene (King of all Ashanti). Osei Tutu held the Ashanti throne until his death in battle in 1717, and was the sixth king in Asante royal history.

The Asantehene is the ruler of the Ashanti people ethnic group and the Kingdom of Ashanti and Ashantiland the homeland of the Ashanti people ethnic group, historically a position of great power. The Asantehene is traditionally enthroned on a golden stool known as the Sika ‘dwa, and the office is sometimes referred to by this name. The Asantehene is also the titular ruler of Kumasi, capital of Ashanti. The Asante state, or Asanteman (also known as the Kingdom of Ashanti, Ashantiland, Ashanti and Asante, Empire of Ashanti or Ashanti Confederacy), comprises the Ashanti region. The Ashanti Empire and Confederacy comprised part of present-day Ashantiland (southern Ghana) and portions of present-day eastern Côte d’Ivoire between the 17th and 20th centuries.

The current Asantehene is Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, born Nana Kwaku Dua, who ascended as the 16th Asante king in April 1999. Osei Tutu II was one of seven descendants who were eligible to the heir presumptive.

Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II

The Asantehene is also automatically the lifetime patron of the Kumasi Asante Kotoko Football Club.

King of Ashanti
Asantehene ma Asanteman
King Asantehene Osei Tutu II of Ashanti-Asanteman.jpg
Osei Tutu II
since 26 April 1999
Style His – Your Majesty
First monarch Osei Tutu Opemsoo
1701 to 1717
Formation c. 1670
Residence Manhyia Royal Palace


Elections and regents

During the period between the death of an Asantehene and the election of a successor, the Mamponghene, the Asantehene’s deputy, acts as a regent. This policy was only changed during a time of civil war in the late 19th century, when the Kwasafomanhyiamu or governing council itself ruled as regent. The succession is decided by a series of councils of Asante nobles and other royal family members.

The colonial era and Ashanti independence

The Ashanti Confederacy was made a British protectorate in 1902, and the office of Asantehene was discontinued. In 1926, the British permitted the repatriation of Prempeh I – whom they had exiled to the Seychelles in 1896 and allowed him to adopt the title Kumasehene, but not Ghana Asantehene. However, in 1935, the British finally granted the Ashanti moderated self-rule as the Kingdom of Ashanti, and the title of Asantehene was revived.

On 6 March 1957, the Kingdom of Ashanti and Ashantiland entered a state union with Ghana, the Northern Territories, the Gold Coast Crown Colony and the British Mandate of Togoland to form the modern state of Ghana. The office of Asantehene is now a sub-national constitutional monarchy, and is protected by the Ghanaian constitution.

List of rulers

All rulers in the lists below were members of the Oyoko Abohyen Dynasty.

Kwaamanhene of the Kwaaman State

Name Reign
Nana Twum from about 1570
Nana Antwi until about 1600
Nana Kobia Amamfi about 1600–1630
Nana Oti Akenten


Kumasehene of the Kumaseman State

Name Reign Notes
Nana Oti Akenten about 1640–1660
Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu Opemsoo about 1675/1680–1701 Founder of Asanteman. Reign continues as Asantehene.


Asantehene of the Kingdom of Ashanti (Ashanti Empire)

All regents were members of the Beretuo Dynasty who were and still are the holders of the title Mamponghene. Upon the death of the Asantehene, it is the task of the Mamponghene to act as the regent, or Awisiahene.

Name Reign Notes
Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu Opemsoo 1701–1717
Regent 1717 to 1720 Amaniampon, the mamponghene
Otumfuo Nana Opoku Ware Katakyie 1720–1750
Otumfuo Nana Kusi Oboadum 1750–1764 Forced to abdicate.
Regent 1764 Safo Kantanka, the mamponghene
Otumfuo Nana Osei Kwadwo Okoawia 1764–1777
Regent 1777 Atakora Kwame, the mamponghene
Osei Kwame Panyin 1777–1803
Otumfuo Nana Opoku Fofie December 1803–March 1804
Osei Tutu Kwame Asiba 1804–21 January 1824 Known as Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu Kwame Asiba Bonsu from 1807.
Otumfuo Nana Osei Yaw Akoto 1824–21 February 1834
Otumfuo Nana Kwaku Dua I 25 August 1834 – 27 April 1867
Otumfuo Nana Kofi Karikari 28 May 1867 – 26 October 1874 Forced to abdicate.
Regent 1874 Kwabena Dwomo, the mamponghene
Otumfuo Nana Mensa Bonsu 1874–8 March 1883 Forced to abdicate.
Otumfuo Nana Kwaku Dua II’ 28 April 1884 – 11 June 1884 Died after short illness.
Asante Civil War 1883-1888
Interim Council 1884-1887. Chairman Owusu Kofi 11 June 1884 to November 1884. Chairman Akyampon Panyin November 1884 to 1887.
Regent 1887 to 26 March 1888 Owusu Sekyere II, the mamponghene
Otumfuo Nana Prempeh I 26 March 1888 – 12 May 1931 Original throne name was Kwaku Dua III Asamu. Arrested by the British 1896. Exiled 1900. Released 12 September 1924. Restored as kumasehene 12 November 1926. King Asantehene Prempeh I of Ashanti Empire
Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II 22 June 1931 – 27 May 1970 Using title kumasehene at first, asantehene 31 January 1935. King Asantehene Prempeh II of Asanteman
Otumfuo Nana Opoku Ware II 6 July 1970 – 26 February 1999 Ruled as Ashanti King or Asantehene King Asantehene Opoku Ware II of Asanteman
Regent 26 February 1999 to 26 April 1999 Osei Bonsu II, the mamponghene
Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II 26 April 1999–present current Asantehene King Asantehene Osei Tutu II of Asanteman
source: metro news | Yaw Prekoh |


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