The Akan People
The Akan people are an ethnic group in West Africa. They live in
the neighboring countries Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana,
Togo, and possibly Benin1,2.
largest Akan populations exist in Ghana with almost 10 million
people and in Côte d'Ivoire with almost 7.5 million people3,4.
The Akans probably migrated south to the coastal regions of West Africa
at around 14005.
They built powerful kingdoms, some of which did not come under colonial
rule until around 19005,6.
several centuries the Akan people dominated trade in West
This was due to
the rich natural resources of the land (especially gold) and
access to major
arrived in the late 15th century and started
trading relations with the
Akans8. After their initial
interest in gold
and other natural resources, the Europeans soon discovered the more
profitable trade of slaves8.
In the following four
centuries this region became the major area for slave trade to
are divided into
over a dozen different kingdoms, or states9.
states include the Asante (Ashanti), the Bono, and the Fante10.
Although these states are
very heterogeneous, they share a common language, heritage, and culture
that go back at least 700 years10.
Akan culture is a complex system that integrates social organization,
religion, politics, and various art forms, and that has an immediate
impact on a person's life11,12,13.
ideas are expressed in proverbs and stories, as well as embedded into
designs such as symbols used in carvings and on clothes13,14,15.
Partial map of West Africa. Africa
Political Map 1998, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, The
University of Texas at Austin
Person with royal Akan golden jewelry and traditional dress. Jewelry made by
Adansi, Akan Cultural Symbols Project Crafts People
Kente, Akan woven fabric with an embedded design. From
Hamill Gallery of African Art
1) "Akan." Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. New York: Columbia University
Press, 2005. N. pag. Bartleby.com. 13 Oct. 2006
2) "Tchumbuli - A Language of Benin." Ethnologue: Languages of the
World. Ed. Ed. Raymond, Jr. 15th ed. Dallas: SIL International, 2005.
N. pag. 11 Mar. 2007 <http://www.ethnologue.com/show_
3) "Ghana." The World Factbook. 8 Mar. 2007. Central Intelligence
Agency. 14 Mar. 2007 <https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/
4) "Cote d'Ivoire." The World Factbook. 8 Mar. 2007. Central
Agency. 14 Mar. 2007 <https://www.cia.gov/cia/
5) Meyerowitz, Eva Lewin-Richter. The Early History of the Akan States
of Ghana. London, England: Red Candle Press, 1974.
6) United States of America. Bureau of African Affairs. "Background
Note: Ghana." U.S. Department of State. Oct. 2006. 10 Nov. 2006
7) "Akan People."
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 16 Mar. 2007. 26 Mar.
2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akan_ language>.
8) "Early European Contact and the Slave Trade." Ghana: A Country
Study. Ed. Berry LaVerle. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress,
1994. Country Studies. 2007. 14 Mar. 2007
9) "Akan Religion." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd
ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. BookRags. 14 Mar. 2007
10) Federal Research Division of Library of Congress. "Major Ethnic
Groups - The Akan Group." Ghana: A Country Study. Ed. LaVerle Bennette
Berry. 3rd ed. Country Studies/Area Handbook Series. Washington, D.C.:
Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., 1995. N. pag. Country Studies US. 2007. 14
Mar. 2007<http://countrystudies.us/ghana /39.htm>.
11) Rutledge, Christopher Kweku. "African Traditional Religious
Beliefs, Among the Akans." Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 19
Oct. 2006 <http://colanmc.siu.edu/BAS495/students/chris/
12) Arthur, G. F. Kojo, and Robert Rowe. Akan Cultural Symbols Project.
20 Feb. 2006. 13 Oct. 2006
13) Schwimmer, Brian. "Akan Social Stratification." Kinship and Social
Organization. Aug. 2003. 14 Mar. 2007 <http://www.uman
14) Opoku, Kofi Asare. "African Proverbs." The Drum Spring 1995. 20
Mar. 2007 <http://www.ritesofpassage.org/ds95-3.htm>.