Osei Tutu, the founder of the Asante empire

In accordance with the matriarchal tradition in Africa, Kofi Osei Tutu became an Asante king of a territory situated in present-day Ghana. He succeeded his maternal uncle Obiri Yeoba, thus representing the power of the person who really holds royalty, that is to say his mother; and preparing the power for the next holder, his sister.

Kofi Osei Tutu, founder of the Asante empire
Kofi Osei Tutu, founder of the Asante empire; Illustration by Alfred Smith for Anheuser Busch

The king who was an ambitious man, faced the division of the Asante people which scattered itself in several small kingdoms, under the domination of the state of Denkyira. Like all the sub-Saharan Africa, the Asante people was at that time very gold-rich and used to trade with Jenne, Timbuktu and the Hausa country.

Helped by his divine secrets guardian Okomfo Anyoke, Osei Tutu considered the Asante states’ political situation and got into a unification policy. The king made the Sika Dwa Kofi – which is a gold throne divinized by Okomfo Anyoke – the materialization of the Asante cultural unity, and holder of the spirit, of the power and of the energy of the people. The holder of the Sika Dwa Kofi becomes de facto Asantehene – chief of the Asante – and must be from the lineage of Osei Tutu and Obiri Yeoba. Like Pharaoh, Osei Tutu became spiritual, political and military guide of his people.

Architecture of the Asante empire. Photographies of the abandonned houses, taken after the destruction of the empire by the British
The brilliant architecture of the Asante empire. Photography of abandonned houses, taken after the destruction of the empire by the British

The Asantehene chose the city of Kumasi as his capital and inaugurated the annual festival of Odwira, which gathers all the states and strengthens the spirit of unity. Still assisted by Okomfo Anyoke, the king wrote a constitution that confederates the Asante states led by the Asantehene and the Kumasihene – chief of Kumasi.

After he had carefully formed and prepared an army which included the cavalry, infantry, scouts, the royal guard, the king started a war against Denkyira, the common enemy of the small Asante states. He came out of this confrontation victorious. The Asante Empire really appeared in 5937 of the African era (1701 B.C). As a great builder, Osei Tutu allowed a considerable economical rise at such a point that it is said that the streets of Kumasi were paved with gold bars.

sika dwa kofi
Sika dwa kofi

Osei Tutu died in 5953 during a war against the Akyem people and was succeeded by his nephew Opoku Ware. He left a powerful and stable empire, in spite of clan conflicts that took a part of the Asante towards Ivory Coast, led by his niece, the hereditary princess Poku. They are today the Baule people.

The empire was only to be dismantled by the British, after a resistance against the slave trade and then the colonization, led by the Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa. The Sika Dwa Kofi still remains the symbol of the Asante unity.

By : Lisapo ya Kama ©

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