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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. The state achieved its height in the early eighteenth century, shortly before its destruction. It stretched more than four hundred kilometres (250 miles) along the coast from Whydah (now Ouidah in Benin) in the east to beyond Winneba (now in Ghana) in the west.

Little more than a list of names of Akwamu's rulers is known. They ruled as the akwamuhene, the king of all Akwamu, and they used their wealth to ensure prominent displays of gold as a symbol of their grip on power. However, 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 of Asante, Osei Tutu, who was supported by Akwamu, cannot be confirmed by historical evidence. What is clear is that 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 1640-1750 - A Study of the Rise and Fall of a West African Empire, Ivor Willks, 2001, from History of West Africa, J F Ade Ajayi & Michael Crowder (Longman, 1985), and from External Links: Ghana Web, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

c.1480 - 1500

Various clan states are formed in Old Ghana's territory by the immigrant Akan communities, with Denkyira becoming prominent in what is now central Ghana and Akwamu in central southern Ghana. Another state which starts off small and insignificant is that of Kwaaman.

Akan people
Akan people - photographed here around the beginning of the twentieth century - migrated into regions of modern Ghana from around the eleventh century AD, but probably in smaller family groups rather than as a single mass movement of people

1505 - 1520

Otumfuo Agyen Kokobo

First of the rulers of the Akwamu tribal state.

1520 - 1535

Otumfuo Ofosu Kwabi

1535 - 1550

Otumfuo Oduro

1550 - 1565

Otumfuo Addow / Adow

Drew Akwamu further inland to avoid Akan conflicts.

1565 - 1580

Otumfuo Akoto I

1580 - 1595

Otumfuo Asare

1595 - 1610

Otumfuo Akotia

1610 - 1625

Otumfuo Obuoko Dako

1621

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 Fante 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.

1625 - 1640

Ohemmaa Afrakoma

Expanded the state.

1629

Benefiting from improved agriculture and the creation of a growing food surplus, the Akwamu state begins to expand. Its people start to infringe upon several neighbouring states, including Akuapem.

1640 - 1674

Otumfuo Ansa Sasraku I

1674 - 1689

Otumfuo Ansa Sasraku II

Expanded the state.

1677 - 1681

Hemmed in to the north and north-west by the state of Akim and other states which are in loose alliance with or subject to the powerful Denkyira, they expand south and south-east towards the Ga and Fante towns of the coast. These they subdue between 1677 and 1681 under their akwamuhene, Ansa Sasraku II. They also extend their influence over the state of Ladoku in the east in 1679.

Akwamu tribespeople
People of the Akwamu state photographed during the early or mid-twentieth century, perhaps around the time of the formation of Ghana, by which time they had been subjugated by the Asante for about two hundred years

c.1680

From this point onwards, 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.

1689 - 1699

Otumfuo Ansa Sasraku III

Expanded the state.

1689 - 1701

The Asante 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, and one that is still expanding its own territory. Ansa Sasraku III conquers the Fante state of Agona to the west of Akwamu in 1689.

1699 - 1702

Otumfuo Ansa Sasraku IV (Addo)

1702 - 1725

Otumfuo Akonno Panyin / Panin

Expanded the state.

1702 & 1710

The Akwamu cross the River Volta to occupy Whydah, a coastal state which is normally subservient to Dahomey (now in southern Benin). In 1710 the Ewe people of the Ho region are also subjugated. Akwamu is now a powerful state, but this power generates a rift between them and the Asante. Pressured by the Asante, the Akyem peoples begin to retreat upon Akwamu's borders, and they are ready to fight their way into Akwamu's territory.

1707

FeatureEnglish Gold Coast becomes British Gold Coast on 1 May. The Asante use their trading networks to sell slaves for profit to the British and other European nations who trade along the coast (see feature link, right). In return, they buy European weapons which they use to further increase the size of the kingdom.

British and Asante leaders
The British probably met up with the Asante leaders at an early point in the expansion of Gold Coast, although this 1819 illustrates a meeting of its own time, as confirmed by the headgear worn by the British soldiers

1725 - 1730

Otumfuo Ansa Kwao

Last ruler of Akwamu state. Fled due to Akyem pressure.

1730 - 1731

After perhaps a generation of increasing pressure from the Akyem peoples and much fighting, the akwamuhene is forced to flee. By 1731 the state ceases to exist. Otumfuo Akonno Kuma becomes regent for the lost Akwamu throne until 1744, when Otumfuo Opoku Kuma can succeed as the titular ruler - now in name only. His successors continue to provide leadership for the Akwamu people within the Asante kingdom and into modern Ghana.