THE STORY OF AHANTA (1 – 2)
This paper has a limited purpose – to single out for discussion the early history of the AHANTA STATE and the story of the glorious era of Ahanta Traditional hierarchy prior to the recent creation of District Assemblies which significantly altered the early geopolitical morphology of the area, vis-á-vis, SHAMA-AHANTA EAST METROPOLITAN ASSEMBLY (with its capital at Agona Nkwanta).
In the process the name AHANTA as a toponym became integrated with Shama and other related autonomous states in the Western Region.
In lieu of this, the present paper shall be considered as an effort in historical reclamation rather than historical reconstruction.
The name AHANTA has been applied at different times and by different observers to a varying extent of territory as follows. On a 17th century Map of the Gold Coast drawn at Mouri by a Dutch cartographer which refers to some 29 States, Ahanta is shown as a coastal state lying between the state of Aguafo in the east and Three Points in the west.
The Maps of 1729 and 1750, on the other hand, show a picture radically different from that presented on the map of 1629, or by both Barbot and Bosman in their later accounts. For in place of the six coastal states between the mouth of the Pra and Accra listed by Bosman, is the single state of Fante with ‘Axim-Hante’ in the west.
Even at the beginning of the 20th century, Ahanta proper consisted of the mutually independent divisions of Bunsue, British Sekondi, Dutch Sekondi, Mfuma (Dixcove), Axim and Nsien. Ethnically, Ahanta today lies between Nzema in the west and Fante States in the east whose languages are different from Ahanta.
That Shama had not been a division of Ahanta or Fante in the past, was confirmed during the proceedings on ‘Shama Stool Dispute, 1924’ and it stated categorically that “from time immemorial the descent has been patrilineal, and that a cousin of the chief of Yarbiw founded Shama with its subsidiary – Stools at Supome (or Supon-Yarbiw) and Nohaban as the important divisions of Shama, and that succession to the Stool of Yarbiw is also patrilineal” (qv. ‘Public Records and Achievers Administration Department, Accra, ADM26/573. Also “Omanhen of Shama, Land Boundary settlement Hearing “1956” LBS, D97. NAG, ACCRA).
Shall we call it MYTH? Recounting how Ahanta State came into existence is narrated and interpreted in this form: “the leader and founder named Badu came out of the whale’s mouth at the shore with a great number of followers. The landing place was Borofopow. He was accompanied closely by his sister, Tsiawiem, and his younger brother, Tsikwadu. As soon as they set foot on the dry land the leader took up his battle sword and traversed the length and breadth of the area and declared “I AM THE MONARCH OF ALL I SURVEY !” The leader having originated from the mouth of the whale was lauded with the appellation BONSU, and ever since successive Ahanta Chiefs had been called BADU BONSU to give prestige and prominence to their traditional ancestors.
The interpretation offered is that the founding ancestors of Ahanta trekked along the beach in search of land to occupy permanently.
Soon, they halted at a spot where a whale was warming up, so they considered the area to be peaceful – a land void of any monster or any hostile dwellers, thus the nucleus of a mighty state.
was automatically created by the generous intercession of the whale.
The landing site, Brofopow, where they reminded at the beach “to warm up” became known as AHANTA, derived from “hata”, meaning” to dry up”.
After the warming up, they took the road that led to Elmina in the east and turned to Ankobra River in the west.
In this area, they settled near a well which they named Bonsu-Bresu.
It is said that King Badu Bonsu was by every standard a really great ruler and an original thinker who is credited by tradition with many exploits, (vide: S.A. Sutherland: ‘State Emblems of the Gold Coast’, 1952, p.15).
The first and obvious reason for an exodus about this time was that the original settlement of the Ahanta at Bonsu-Bresu was hit by an epidemic which claimed many lives; therefore they moved to the mouth of the river and founded Owurusuam which in Ahanta language means “let death come and claim me here as well”. Later it became corrupted into BUSA, being the capital of the State.
They were joined on the land at the west coast by the founding fathers of a Lower-Dixcove led by Hima Denkyi who migrated from Krotwiaman (Bono Takyiman), and first settled at Nduaso searching for drinking water. Later, they discovered a stream which they named “Mfumu Nsuye’, meaning ‘unexpected water’ which later became NFUMAH. Here they settled and named the stream after the town they had built. They had a boundary with Upper Dixcove at River Piadu. Leading to the south is a Cove (ie. A bay), and there was a certain trader by name Dick; when the first European traders discovered the Cove they made Dick their Agent and his name was attached to the Cove as Dick’s Cove, which later became DIXCOVE (op . cit. Sutherland , p.55)
When Busua emerged as capital of the Ahanta State, there commenced some references to Ahanta in the series of reports on local affairs by the Dutch who built a fort (Fort Orange) at Sekondi 1670, taken away by the Ahanta 1694; the British who built one (English Sekondi) close by, captured by the Ahanta 1698. One area developed into Dutch Ahanta State (Busua Ahanta) with a number of villages.
Furthermore, Fort Witsen at Takoradi was built by the Swedes 1640; St. Sabastian at Shama built by the Swedes 1640; Metal Cross at Dixcove by the English 1690, attacked by Dixcove 1697; Batensterin to Butri by the Dutch 1640; Gross Fredericksburg/Fort Holland at Prince Town, Fort Louise At Takrama; Fort St. Anthony at Axim; Fort Dothea at Akwidi, etc: Thus individual States on the west Cost grew in symbiosis with the European fortified trading stations. All these forts sprang up since European traders had an insatiable curiosity and demand for gold found and mined at fairly close distance from the coast. And with so many powerful competitors entrenched closely together along the brief stretch of the coast, trade thee inevitably assumed a most cut-throat dimension than ever before.
By the end of the 19th century, Ahanta was one of a number of full-fledged States in existence on the coast which included form the west: Axim, Ahanta, Jabu, Aguafo, Fetu, Fante, Agona and Accra. Thus Ahanta seemed to have reached the peak of its power and influence at this period, (see, ALSO C-W, Welman NATIVE STATES OF THE GOLD-COAST, ii Ahanta, 1929).
THE SPECTATOR - Saturday, November 24, 2012 Page 31
Saturday, December 1, 2012 Page 31