From Kwame Nsiah, Kumasi

IF WE WERE to piece the pieces together of our legend of creation it could be found that one important creation of the Creator,the Odomankoma, is the Woman. By all considerations, she comes closer by her natural functions to the characteristic meaning of Onyankopon the one-Great-one-have-to-need-nothing. If you have God you have everything'. Barely similarly it is also said that if you lose your mother, you are finished...' She is one to have, indeed.

When we bumped in with the Woman as an individual of our world, she was already old. She was, and continues to remain the Aberewa,which translates as the 'little tired one.' She is known to have procreated all. In addition, she it was who brought all her kind, including her kin from the World without the Sun Asamaado to the World under the Sun Ewiase to live. She remains the most powerful individual in the home for all time, although in time she ceded her leadership position to her brother.

She is so accepted and revered by all. Her wisdom and intuitive powers borne out of her life's experiences make her a near-god, a sort of a witch, much loved and much hated, relatively. When fortune reaches her home, she is the happiest of all. But when misfortune strikes, she remains the unhappiest as she is considered as the devil, the witch every body would wish to avoid. Nevertheless, she continues to be the Aberewa of the home, the much caring individual.

She is the most tried person of the home. She has seen many good days, and bad days, equally, and considers their consequences as motifs in the pattern of life. She knows that without them life ceases to be colourful and exciting. She is stoically philosophic. No doubt the woman of the Asante traditional home is known to be the wisest of all. Not even the legendary Kwaku Ananse of our folk tales can match her in sheer knowledge of things that are, and are to be. As a result, she is much consulted in things physical and metaphysical.

Her advice never fails. She turns the devil out of her door with soft-spoken words. She saved the dying king by advising that he should be doused with water to soften the coat of leopard skin that was choking him. These may sound like folk tales, yet their association with the wise Old Lady is significant of her caliber and stature. All the family possessions in land and other properties are known to her. She cuts short penetrating enquiries of her past with straight forward answers. She tells the history of her people to suit the temperament of the moment, hence there is much legend juxtaposed and mixed up with real history of her time.

No doubt, she is the link between the living and the dead whose memory she must honour at all times. She provides them with the necessary cover in the fond belief that the dead reward good deeds, as they equally punish bad conduct. She lives the past, and lives the present. She is very religious and very neat, a mark of sacredness of her sacred self, and her sacred duties. To her the dead are living at Asamaado, where they bid their time to come up to our world to live. She believes that they could even come home at will as some visitors to test her magnanimity. So single-handedly she cooks the food that is fed to the Black Stools on festive occasions. She is restrained by the limitations of her womanhood to pour libation of wine to the dead ancestors. She, however, knows the processes, and teaches same to her sons, and their nephews, and grand nephews down the matrilineal line.

She knows all the dead ancestors by name, and by face which she easily identifies in any new-born baby her daughters and grand daughters nay bear. She is, therefore, instrumental in suggesting the name a particular child should bear. If she fails, she is sure to call that child by known epithets supposedly of the particular ancestor by whose form that child has come. She is known to be quite fascinating in such matters.

The birth of the female in all Asante traditional homes is greeted with much jubilation. It is an assurance of continuity of the family line, that is sure to last the ages. Much more important, it is the sign that the dead ancestors will not rot at Asamando; they will surely be afforded to come up to live in that cyclic order of living to die, and dying to live. The factor has been the BOGYA (Blood) the transient material of our make, which the female kind provides to compliment with material of our make, which the female kind provides to compliment with the Sunsum (the Spirit) which the husband provides to 'create' the baby. It is an eddyfying belief which is true to our physical and spiritual make, that explains our hold on to life, and the characteristic immortality of the soul that makes us live even after death. This particular Asante traditional religious belief cannot be faulted. It easily collaborates with all other religion beliefs that holds the soul to be immortal.

For this reason, the female member of the Asante traditional home is grilled right from child hood in disciplined life to respect the man, the male counterpart. She is taught in all the arts of husbanding the husband, who makes the belief in the immortality of the soul real in the children they bear. And the more disciplined the man and more hard-working, the better his choice for a husband, This explains why in the traditional Asante home, the arranged marriage is better preferable to any, which at best is described as marriage by accident. But any mishap that marriage may bring is believed to be averted by the training that is given to the children at home, where order is the first law.

The female is brought up in the family secrets, which she is taught to uphold. It is the family's life-line. It could be an inherited treasury in the form of gold nugget or gold dust, gold beads or even something as precious as that in which the family soul could reside. The family black stool, the very first black stool of the ancestors is held in such high esteem that wherever the family moves to, is carried with them by the women folk, preferably the eldest. They are the mothers of men, and, by implication, mothers of their property.

In effect, the owner of the treasury, and the black stool, is the female kind, referred to in our discussion as the Old Lady of the home. She is also identified with the Queen mother, the Obaa Panin, who is ever present in any traditional royal home of Asante. The Queen mother is the virtual owner of the Stool, who has the inherent right by her royal birth to cede to anyone of the members of the family whenever the incumbent king dies.
There is precedence to follow, however. Yet, in certain instances, her word should prevail, or there would be no king to elect.It is not without reason that the woman in our traditional homes is also known as the Mother of Kings, and the Mother of Heroes. Though she cannot be king herself because of the limitations of her biological make-up, she makes, and controls, the king who holds her in high esteem in her role as the traditional advisor of the king. It could be said with certainty that behind every good king is the grand old Queen mother.

Indeed, in Asante traditional order, the Queen mother rules as King in the absence of the king, short of sitting on the male kingly stool. This is especially so with Asantehene whose stand-in, in time of his death, is the traditional Mamponhene. But his position as the Nwisiahene the Orphans' chief, ends as soon as the dead Asantehene is buried. The Asantehemaa takes over(her stool) as the virtual king till a new king is nominated.

Again, whenever the incumbent king fails t exercise his kingly powers in one way or the other, the Queen has the right of her position to stand in (to exercise that singular authority) as a means to protect the family's honour and common property. With Asante, royal duties are never left unattended to. The Queen mother does it herself or her appointee is charged to do it, and expeditiously.

This was the example of Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother of Ejisu who had that rare privilege to declare war with the British by challenging Governor Hodgson's claim to the Golden Stool. King Prempeh I, the Asantehene was then in exile, together with his father and mother who was then the Asantehemaa. Asante was without her king and her Queen mother and most of the other chiefs including the chief of Ejisu.
The prospects of suffering exile was not endearing enough to most of the rest of the Asante chiefs who at the time did not see any hope of victory in another war with another British. A great number of them, as a result, kept mute. But not Nana Yaa Asantewaa who shot forward with the courage she could muster to make it impossible for Governor Hodgson to take her stool away, the soul of Asanteman. She called upon all the willing chiefs to stand up and fight. She suffered exile subsequently. Yaa Asamtewaa in that rare position had been king (of the Golden Stool) more or less, by showing the way to the battle fields of the 1900 War.

It was an impressive stand indeed, but quite characteristic of Asante cultural order which earlier on had brought to the fore such courageous Queen mothers as Juaben Serwaa and Kokofu Freman Toatuo.In their respective times, they had to double as Queen mothers and kings in their own right to answer the call to duty. The truth about it all is that the MALE Stools are their property,which must be seen to be owned by them, and protected at all times whether or not the incumbent king is present. By that stand, they give true meaning to the adage that "they are made kings who own the stool, and not those who long to be kings..." It is that traditional right which the Asantehemaa has exercised to have her son nominated for installation and enstoolment as the next Asantehene. Earlier in the 1880s or thereabouts, the then Asantehemaa, Nana Yaa Akyea, had her son who became Nana Prempeh I nominated and enstooled King of all Asante.This was done in succession to another son she nominated but died rather too early to be crowned king on the Golden Stool.

The woman in Asante traditional order has endured. The family unit has also endured to endow us with generations of kings, and generation heroes of men and heroines of women. Our beliefs have been our strength.If the Odomankoma (God) created things here and in the ancestral world, He also created the Woman to bear the family and lead it, and care for it, and win it, for herself and for all. Asante, in particular, has been richer by that tradition.

The chronicle