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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. The 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. For several centuries the Akan people dominated trade in West Africa7. This was due to the rich natural resources of the land (especially gold) and access to major trading routes7. Europeans 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 the Americas8.

The Akans are divided into over a dozen different kingdoms, or states9. Some of these 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. The 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. Akan cultural ideas are expressed in proverbs and stories, as well as embedded into designs such as symbols used in carvings and on clothes13,14,15.


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Picture Sources:

1) Partial map of West Africa. Africa Political Map 1998, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, The University of Texas at Austin

2) Person with royal Akan golden jewelry and traditional dress. Jewelry made by Robert Adansi, Akan Cultural Symbols Project Crafts People

3) Kente, Akan woven fabric with an embedded design. From Hamill Gallery of African Art


Sources:

1) "Akan." Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. N. pag. Bartleby.com. 13 Oct. 2006 <http://www.bartleby.com/65/ak/Akan.html>.

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_ language.asp?code=bqa>.

3) "Ghana." The World Factbook. 8 Mar. 2007. Central Intelligence Agency. 14 Mar. 2007 <https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/ factbook/geos/gh.html>.

4) "Cote d'Ivoire." The World Factbook. 8 Mar. 2007. Central Intelligence Agency. 14 Mar. 2007 <https://www.cia.gov/cia/ publications/factbook/geos/iv.html>.

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 <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2860.htm>.

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 <http://countrystudies.us/ghana/6.htm>.

9) "Akan Religion." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. BookRags. 14 Mar. 2007 <http://www.bookrags.com/research/akan-religion-eorl- 01>.

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/ ghweb.html>.

12) Arthur, G. F. Kojo, and Robert Rowe. Akan Cultural Symbols Project. 20 Feb. 2006. 13 Oct. 2006 <http://www.marshall.edu/akanart/akanartintro2. html>.

13) Schwimmer, Brian. "Akan Social Stratification." Kinship and Social Organization. Aug. 2003. 14 Mar. 2007 <http://www.uman itoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/case_studies/akan>

14) Opoku, Kofi Asare. "African Proverbs." The Drum Spring 1995. 20 Mar. 2007 <http://www.ritesofpassage.org/ds95-3.htm>.