New book probes the life of a King and a Culture

by Ben ALEXANDER

Anyone who read Kofi Ayim’s comprehensive work The Akan of Ghana, released in 2015, might have concluded from the enormity of the work that he had said all there was to say about the Akan of Ghana.

However, the New Jersey-based scholar, who is himself an Akan, is back with a new volume that probes the life of one extraordinary Akan king, Kwasi Akuffo, who held the stool of the Akuapem State from 1895 to 1907 and again from 1914 until his death in 1927.

As Ayim makes clear in The Legendary Kwasi Akuffo, Kwasi Akuffo’s claims to fame are many. He may well hold a world record for number of children sired with his many wives, and indeed a number of his descendants hold distinguished positions in Ghana today. He also knew how to navigate to intricate middle ground between traditionalism and modernism, and between traditional law and British colonial rule.

One learns from Ayim that Akuffo made sure his children were well educated and encouraged the development of their talents and other such gifts; that he knew multiple languages and was an expert in both Akan traditions and western ideas; that he brought much dignity and prestige to the kingship; and that he was an adept trader who managed to amass much wealth through his own efforts. Ayim does not gloss over the fact that Akuffo had a hot temper, that he was as adept at making enemies as friends, and that his first kingship ended in an ignominious destoolment, which Ayim chronicles in detail.

Still, the tone that Ayim conveys is a favorable one. Ayim also provides a detailed history of how the Akuapem State came about, through a struggle of its local Guan inhabitants to break free from a tyrannical Akwamu regime that was governing them in the early 18th century, and he additionally reviews some of the Akan traditions of kingship and the role of queen mothers that he first discussed in The Akan of Ghana.

He also delves into the mixed blessings and dilemmas that European Christianity brought to African societies, and in fact shows how conflict between Christianity and traditional culture played a part in the determination of one queen mother, who happened to be married to a Protestant Pastor, to have Kwasi Akuffo destooled in 1907.

An extensive series of appendices brings together an exhaustive chronology of events, a list of kings and queen mothers (which Ayim acknowledges may have some imprecisions but is the best that could be reconstructed from limited source material), and a treasury of folk remedies that Kwasi Akuffo collected and passed on.

A particularly rich trove of detail is an appendix that probes what is known of some of the Guan and Kyerepon towns of Akuapem, divided into quarters whose names and particulars of governance have been preserved, where priests and traditional leaders come alive. Kofi Ayim, by this work brings alive the trove of knowledge of King Kwasi Akuffo to the 21st century, that hitherto was almost lost to posterity.

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Posted by on Jan 17 2018. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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