History Files


African Kingdoms

West Africa




Akwamu Clan State (Akan People / Ghana)

Akwamu (otherwise known as Akuambo) was a small clan state that was founded by the Abrade (Aduana) clan of the Akan people, along the southern edges of the forests of what is now Ghana in West Africa. It was one of a patchwork of Akan communities that were at this time coalescing into nascent minor kingdoms following migration from Bonoman. At least two of these new minor kingdoms became prominent: Akwamu in the south and Denkyira in the central western area of Akan territory. For around a century and-a-half Denkyira held the upper hand in central Ghana because it had the best gold reserves, and gold meant power, while Akwamu expanded its own territory eastwards, towards southern Togoland and into Benin.

The origins of Akwamu are almost entirely obscure, just like those of the far greater kingdom that it would help to found - Asante. The Akan people of this and the other kingdoms had already begun to start clearing areas of the forest and to cultivate food crops, allowing their numbers to increase. They needed more labour to clear additional areas of the forest, so they took slaves to help. Farming prospered, producing wealth in food, and that drove the Akan on to achieve more.

Little more than a list of names of Akwamu's rulers is known. Anything else about them is largely the product of oral tradition and should be viewed with suspicion. Even the existence of the great Akan king, Osei Tutu, who was supported by Akwamu, cannot be confirmed by historical evidence. However, the support given by Akwamu helped a minor clan state by the name of Kwaaman to prosper. This act also unwittingly planted the seeds of Akwamu's own eventual destruction.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Akwamu 16401750 - A Study of the Rise and Fall of a West African Empire, Ivor Willks, 2001, and from External Link: Ghana Web, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.)


English Gold Coast is created with Kormantin as its chief post, under the Company of Merchants Trading to Guinea. Akwamu is largely separated from this coastal strip by the Fanti people, so that the first effects of its creation are not felt this far inland (but this also means that Akwamu itself is not properly recorded for posterity). Gold Coast's known governors are shown in the main Ghana page, alongside the rulers of the Kwaaman clan state.

c.1680 - 1701

Denkyira's neighbours begin to band together under the leadership of Osei Tutu of Kwaaman, who is largely protected by Akwamu. The subsequent destruction of Denkyira as a leading power gives birth to the Asante kingdom under Osei Tutu. He forms a capital at Kumasi and he and his successors rule as the asantehene, the king of all Asante. They use their newfound wealth to ensure prominent displays of gold as a symbol of their grip on power. Previously independent neighbouring states are gradually integrated into the expanding kingdom. Their chiefs are made subjects, and their territories are made regions of the new kingdom. Captive enemy warriors are enslaved and put to work in feeding the economy and helping to further expand the kingdom. Akwamu to the south remains an honoured friend and supporter.