The Asante (Ashantis) constitute the largest
of the various subgroups of the Akan, who trace their origins
partly to Bono-Manso and Techiman, in present-day Brong Ahafo
Region. They constitute 14.8 per cent of all Ghanaians by birth,
and 30.1 per cent of the total Akan population of 8,562,748
in the country. Various oral traditions have it that the Ashantis
migrated from various places through Bono-Manso/Takyiman (Techiman)
to present day Ashanti Region.
As a united people, they started with a nucleus
of the Oyoko clan around Asantemanso. After several years of
subjugation by other empires, such as the Akwamu and the Denkyira,
Asante eventually grew to be a very powerful empire founded
by King Osei-Tutu I (1695-1717), after defeating the Denkyira
King Ntim Gyakari during the battle of Feyiase (Buah, 1998).
Ironically, King Osei Tutu I had spent his
childhood days in the court of the Denkyira King, according
to custom, and had escaped from there to Akwamu where he met
his lifelong friend and spiritual mentor, the legendary Okomfo
Anokye. It is believed that it was through Okomfo Anokye’s
extraordinary supernatural powers that King Osei Tutu founded
the Ashanti Empire; as he is said to have commanded the Golden
Stool to fall from “the heavens”, the stool which,
to this day, serves as the symbol of the spirit, unity and strength
of the Ashantis.
At the height of its glory, the influence
and culture of the Asante Kingdom stretched beyond the borders
of the present day Ghana. The Ashanti were able to preserve
what was best in Akan culture, including the use of gold dust
as currency and gold weights as a measure, which system was
actually originated by the great Bono (Brong) King Akumfi Ameyaw
I (1328-1363) (Buah, 1998).
The Asante fought many successful wars against
the Denkyira and their allies including the Wassa, the British,
the Fante, and even the Bonos (Brongs). Indeed it was the Ashanti
King Opoku Ware I who defeated the Bonos in 1723 and destroyed
Bono-Manso, forcing the Bono Empire to move its capital from
Manso to present day Techiman. The Ashanti Empire eventually
collapsed with the defeat and exile of King Prempeh I, first
to El-Mina Castle and eventually to the Seychelles.
Not even the last stalwart stand by the great
warrior Queen Yaa Asantewaa could revive the fame, fortune and
power of Ashanti. However, the culture, kinship and social structure
of Ashanti, like many of the other Akan groups, has been preserved
and maintained to the present day, and underlines the cultural
heritage, not only of the Asante, but of the entire Akan ethnic
group. The present Asanti King (Asantehene) Osei Tutu II, is
a direct matrilineal descendant of Osei Tutu I.