Profiles in Africana Religion - Part 23: Yaa Asantewaa, Ghana's Golden Warrior Goddess and the Sacred Golden Stool
Across the pond, there were (and are) dynamic movements for freedom and independence on the continent of Africa. One in particular, was led by a woman from the Asante people of Ghana named Yaa Asantewaa. To be clear, colonization and slavery worked hand in hand. Ambitious Europeans traversed to and through the continent of Africa subduing land and people for their own benefit. As a result, Africans on both sides of the globe were tortured in life and worked to death. Not only, were Africans lives and freedom stolen from them, but as well their most valued resources, art and culture. However, one stood up to the thieves when they came to the border of Asante-land demanding what which was not theirs: the Golden Stool. The proud history and spirit of the Asante people are tied to this sacred stool. According to legend – before the reign of Osei Tutu I, the Asante people were a dividing and warring group. To bring a sense of unity to the people, Okomfo Anokye - a High Priest - was charged with appealing to God and the ancestors to find a path toward peace. Anokye’s pleas were answered in the form of the Golden Stool, which according to legend descended from the heavens and landed at the feet of Osei Tutu I. From that day forward the Golden Stool became the unifying symbols of the power and pride of the Asante people.
Destined to be Queen Mother of the Asante’s, Yaa Asantewaa was born on a Thursday sometime in 1840 and was the eldest of two siblings. Though she was not born in Kumasi (the capital of Asante-land), she was born of the Asante people in a small village in Southern Ghana named Beseese. Her childhood was happy and uneventful, when she came of age she married into a polygamous marriage and gave birth to a daughter. Asantewaa did have a younger brother who was named Chief of Edewoso, a small but vibrant Asante community. During her brother’s time as Chief, the Asante Kingdom was going through a period of dynamic flux. Apart from the problems created by the presence of colonial Europeans, there were internal issues within in the Kingdom itself. For instance, for five years (1883-1888) the Asante Kingdom was engulfed in a civil war. This war took its toll on the kingdom, weakening it to the point that it was vulnerable to outside influence and attack. In addition to being marred in Civil conflict, the Asante’s had squared-off against the British Army five times in the 19th century, which had also worn down the Asante Empire.
Though Asantewaa’s brother made it through the Kingdom’s conflicts and maintained his position as Chief, he passed away a few years after the civil war. His passing left a vacuum within the power structure of the community, however, it also created the opportunity for Asantewaa to make history. To explain, though Asantewaa’s brother held power in their small community, he was merely a local Chief who answered to the King of the Asante’s, Prempeh I. Prempeh's reign was conflict filled, between the Asante Civil War and the colonization of the British Empire, the Asante’s were mired in political instability. When the British came to the King demanding the obedience of the Asante’s as well as unfettered access to their resources (including the Golden Stool), he and many other chiefs and Asante officials refused and were subsequently arrested and exiled to the Seychelles Islands on other side of the African continent in the Indian ocean. The British believed when they removed the power base of the Asante’s, they would have unchallenged access to the spoils of the kingdom. They were mistaken.
About two centuries after the legend of the Golden Stool, during the British colonial period, Sir Frederick Hodgson, regional governor of the Gold Coast (Ghana) demanded the Stool so that he may sit upon it, symbolically conquering the spirit of the Asantes. The stool was never meant to be sat on, not even by the Asantehene (King of the Asantes). Again, the Golden Stool is not a throne, it was a symbol of the spirit of the Asante people, their culture and their historical lineage. Further, as Queen Mother, Yaa Asantewaa was given the tremendous responsibility of being Gatekeeper of the Golden Stool. The Queen Mother is the second highest position in Asante-land. It is her responsibility to not only guard the integrity of the Golden Stool, but as well she is acts as the mother of the reigning King, guarding the integrity of the Kingdom itself. As Queen Mother, she is an advisor to the King and if the seat is to become vacant, she is responsible for finding and vetting candidates and would-be successors to the crown. When word got back to her that the British had violated the sanctity of the stool and what it stood for, war was declared by Yaa Asantewaa.
This final war for the Asante and the British was the most bloodletting, resulting in massive casualties on both sides of the conflict. Nevertheless, after the dust had settled from the conflict, the British empire still did not have possession of the Golden Stool, but Yaa Asantewa had been captured and exiled to the Seychelles Islands, where she would live out her final years. During the war, the Golden Stool was hidden from the British and they never found it. Instead, it was discovered years later (sometime in the 1930s) by some Ghanaian road workers who were accused to stripping the stool of its Gold plating. The three accused men were tried for their crime in local Ghanaian court, but with the British government still being a colonial force in Ghana, they intervened in the trial on the workers’ behalf; after a short trial they were found guilty and were sentenced to be executed, but the British government intervened in the trial, sparing the lives of the accused. The colonial government also returned the Golden Stool back to the Asante people where it remains the symbol of the spirit of the people it was always supposed to represent. Today, for security reasons, the general public can only view a facsimile of the Stool, as the real stool remains heavily guarded and out-of-reach of any would-be colonizers or thieves.
 Lerone Bennett. Before the Mayflower: a History of the Negro in America, 1619-1962. Colchis Books, 2018. In the first two chapters of this text, the author speaks at length about the Three Great West African Empires, of which Ghana is the first. The Ghanaian Empire (not to be confused with the Republic of Ghana) was the first of the three Great West Africans Empires. The original Ghanaian Empire stood for about five centuries, from the 8th century of the Common Era to the 13th century.
 Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., ed. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. (276).
 It must be noted that this unifying symbol and legend shares some symbolic connection the comic book character Black Panther from the fabled Wakanda. Furthermore, Though it is a stool, no one is to sit on it, even the King of the Asante’s was not to sit of the stool, but is only to allowed his bottom to touch three times as a symbol of his authority.
 The reason the day of her birth is clear, but not the date is due to her day name. Most Ghanaians are given a day name at birth, a name that is reflective of the day she was born. Yaa is for a female born on Thursday, Yaw is the male counterpart.
 Yaa Asantewaa. “Black Past.” https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/yaa-asantewaa-mid-1800s-1921/. Accessed June 2019.
 A. Adu Boahen. Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War of 1900-1. (James Currey Publishers, 2003). Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Yaa Asantewaa: The Heroism of an African Queen, Accra, Ghana: Centre for Intellectual Renewal, 1999. Nana Arhin Brempong (Kwame Arhin), "The Role of Nana Yaa Asantewaa in the 1900 Asante War of Resistance", Ghana Studies 3, 2000, pp. 97–110.
 The Asante Wars 1823-1900. https://v1.blackpast.org/gah/anglo-ashanti-wars-1823-1900. Retrieved June 2019. The First Anglo-Ashanti War began when the Ashanti claimed territory disputed with the Fante, a client state of Great Britain. The (first) war officially ended in 1831, after the Ashanti accepted the Pra River as the boundary between the British-controlled Fante coastal region and the Ashanti Empire… The second Anglo-Ashanti War occurred between 1863 and 1864. In 1863, a large Ashanti force crossed the Pra River in search of a fugitive, Kwesi Gyana. British, African, and Indian troops responded but neither side claimed victory as illness took more casualties on both sides than the actual fighting. The second war ended in a stalemate in 1864… The Third Anglo-Ashanti War occurred from 1873 to 1874. British General Garnet Wolseley led 2,500 British troops and several thousand Indian and African troops against the Ashanti Empire. The war ended in July 1874 when the Ashanti signed the Treaty of Fomena… The fourth Anglo-Ashanti War occurred between 1894 and 1896… The final war, a rebellion called the War of the Golden Stool, took place from March through September 1900.“
 "The Downfall of Prepmeh" by Robert Baden-Powell, 1896, the American edition is available for download at http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/dumpinventorybp.php. Accessed June 2019.
 “The Anglo-Ashanti War,” New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Anglo-Asante_Wars; “The Anglo-Ashanti War,” Warfare History Blog. Accessed June 2019. http://warfarehistorian.blogspot.com/2012/10/anglo-asante-wars-1824-1906-hundred.html; “The Anglo-Ashanti War,” British Battles, https://britishbattles.homestead.com/files/africa/The_Ashanti_Wars.htm; Robert B. Edgerton, The Fall of the Asante Empire: The Hundred-Year War Of Africa Gold Coast (New York City, New York: Free Press, 2010); Albert Adu Boahen, Yaa Asantewaa of the Ashanti-British War of 1900-1901 (London: James Currey, 2003).
 The Golden Stool: https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/golden-stool-17th-c/. Accessed June 2019.