Website Category: Ancient sub-Saharan Civilisations
Criteria: (v) interaction with the environment
Location and Values: The Asante Traditional Buildings are situated in ten different villages to the north and east of Kumasi in south-central Ghana. They represent all that remains of the traditional shrine houses (Abosomfie) of the Ashanti people, each of which was traditionally regarded as the spiritual home of a particular Obosum, a minor deity who could mediate between a mortal being and the supreme god Nyame. Most of the shrine houses were destroyed in the 19th century during raids by the British. In any case, as the buildings were made of earth wood and straw, they were naturally prone to disintegrate quite rapidly, requiring constant maintenance. One of the remaining buildings has been reconstructed, based on traditional designs and building methods. It is located at Besease, about 20 km east of Kumasi, where it is officially open to the public, serving as a small museum. None of the others, including those at the villages of Edwenase, Aduko Jachie, Bodwease, Apiakrom, Patakro and Asenemaso is officially open to the public, while most are still held sacred by the local community and some have a resident priest.
Slideshow of the Asante Traditional Buildings: The slideshow features a short collection of photos of the shrine house at Besease. Following extensive rehabilitation it faithfully reproduces all the elements of an 18 to 19th century traditional building. These typically had several rooms centred around a quadrangular courtyard, with steeply thatched roofs. The walls were plastered and decorated with traditional Adinkra symbols, the lower portion stained orange, with white above. The house at Besease conforms to the standard plan for shrine houses, with four rooms around a courtyard. Three of these – the drumming, cooking and singing rooms – are open on the courtyard side while the fourth, which houses the shrine, is screened off and may only be entered by the priest. In the courtyard there is an alter (Myame Dua) to the supreme god, comprising a collection of pots.
Slideshow of the Asante Traditional Buildings:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the village at Besease on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing. Unfortunately it is difficult to make out the specific shrine house building from satellite imagery, but you get a good overall impression of the situation in which these buildings exist in contemporary Ghana.