Asantewaa challenged women’s duty and roles while respecting her traditional customs. In a society that women were to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, she chose to be bold. A lesson that can continually be brought from this is that a woman had a vision and values that she firmly believed in and did not change the acceptance of social norms. Instead, she was the first woman serving as general in the Asante Army. Asantewaa did not let her gender to be a disadvantage but used it as a different perspective to aid her decision making while in a political role. Many women look towards Asantewaa for strength and endurance when faced with challenges. Factors such as gender, age, education, and race that suppress women were defined.
After the multitude of similar cases involving British control of Asante resources, Asantewaa demonstrated a “united front reflected a desire to blunt long-standing and on-going tensions between the central government and the Ashanti Region”( Day). Demonstrating a strong united front that is proud of its heritage; Asantewaa mocks the British by appearing refined and knowledgeable during negotiations, contraindicating the British’s view of how uncivilized beings act. Asantewaa challenged women’s duty and roles while respecting her traditional customs. In a society that women were to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, she chose to be bold. A lesson that can continually be brought from this is that a woman had a vision and values that she firmly believed in and did not change the acceptance of social norms. Instead, she was the first woman serving as general in the Asante Army. Asantewaa did not let her gender to be a disadvantage but used it as a different perspective to aid her decision making while in a political role. Many women look towards Asantewaa for strength and endurance when faced with challenges. Factors such as gender, age, education, and race that suppress women were defined.
Asantewaa was viewed as an ordinary Asante woman who took action when her culture was under attack. Unlike another ordinary woman in Asante, Asantewaa was Queen Mother who focused on sociocultural and political power amongst her kingdom. She demonstrated courage, reverence and personal discipline when faced by the British and upheld her kingdoms most sacred beliefs. Asantewaa gave her life for her kingdom in the most selfless manner, she had to make sacrifices that have an influence on the development and growth of a nation presently.
In the fifth and final rebellion against British imperialists in 1900- 1901, Asante Empire was defeated. Yaa Asantewaa and Asantehene Prempeh I with other high-ranking advisors were captured and sent to exile in the islands. The Asante community and British empire became more dependent on the Gold Coast Colony. After generations, many such as scholars and community members look at the Asante Queen Mother who took matters into her hands. She leads the kingdom in a battle they may have resulted in tragedy, but the culture and tradition of her people were preserved. Although her vital role in Ghana’s history, some believe that Asantewaa is often of times forgotten and lost in the many roles and leadership changes in a short period of time, possibly due Asantewaa being a woman. Still in modern Ghana Asantewaa’s legacy can be identified by statues, memorials, currency and annual festivals.
Once Asantewaa was imprisoned, the British exiled many other members of the royal family. If permission was given to those of royal blood to stay in the Kingdom those individuals were required to relinquish their titles. The imprisonment of powerful rivals such as Asantewaa and the King Prempeh I was a common practice amongst the British colonists. By eliminating an established community’s leader and politically suppressing the community a transition in power is more successful. Asantewaa died while exiled in the Seychelles Islands “October 17th, 1921” (Korsah). Her body was later buried in Ghana and honored by having multiple sites named after her as well as a school.
During the final moments of the battle between the British and Asante, Asantewaa and several of her advisers were captured and exiled to the islands of Seychelles. In “1902 the British declared Asante under the rule and jurisdiction of the governor of the Gold Coast” ( ARHIN Brempong and Wilks ). After almost a century of war, the Asante people were defeated and subjected to the colonization of British rule. The Ashanti still suffering from defeat but celebrated victory due to the fact of the golden stool was protected. It was arranged that the British and any other foreigners not to violate the sacred rules of the golden stool.
Asantewaa also defined the common view of the Ashanti women not being allowed on the battlefield. A woman was more often than not was used as a prop and remained guarded safely away from enemy lines. Instead, Asantewaa fought with the men she had recruited. If it was a man’s duty to protect what is his, how is a woman’s duty any different was the mindset of Asantewaa? Drums were used as a scare tactic towards the British, each beat having a different meaning.
Many British forces died due to lack of food and resources. After a seven-month siege on the castle, the governor escaped and later returned with supports from surrounding colonies and defeated the Asante people. Asantewaa was forced to change attack methods multiple times ,to the point of relocating the home base of the resistance. She used decoy methods to deliver false information to the secluded British. While British aid was often not too far away from the majority of the time they were being sent in the wrong direction. Only buying time for the Asante resistance to relocate and change battle tactics once again. The element of surprise and knowledge of the land-aided the resistance.
As the commander-of-chief, Asantewaa readied for battle with the men she had rallied. This position had never beforehand held by a woman. In the early eighteen hundreds, a fort was restored by the British as a holding place for military supplies and personnel. This was the target Asantewaa had in mind; knowing that the British outnumbered and out armed Asantewaa, she chose to isolate the fort. Surrounding the fort, blockading all routes leading into Asante, the cities capital, and depleting all their supplies. Asanteewaa was at the front line with her people, she fought without fear was respected by men as an equal. A “treaty of ‘Friendship” was first offered by the British and was rejected by Asantewaa due to the fact that the British did not expect a woman to read the agreement (Wilkes 327).
Once men were rallied, meetings were to take place secretly to decide how the people would liberate their king and take back their kingdom. When a decision was not being made, Asantewaa spoke with these famous words in front of the exclusively male counsel “I must say this if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight until the last of us falls on the battlefields.”(Black History). This was the partial response from Asantewaa after the governor spoke. Asantewaa holds high regard for her culture and her people. She speaks not that of a woman of royalty but of a member of the Asante community. Not only is she criticizing the British in this statement she is doing the same with the Asante men. Stating that if they continue to bicker amongst themselves a woman has no choice but make a decision on her own. She does not wait for the approval or action of a man but fights for what she believes in.
In the early stages of the resistance, Asantewaa took matters in her own hands and recruited her people. Many feared the British as they were viewed powerful outsiders that cannot be trusted. Asantewaa had difficulties enlisting local men, they even refused to support the resistance. Starting to lose hope and support Asante turned to the one place she will never be denied, the communities women. She spoke out to wives of the men she failed to recruit by ordering them to withhold sex from their men until they joined (Reed). To encourage the men further, she also ordered the wives to perform traditional dances and rituals daily to show the dedication the Asante women have for their husbands.
After four battles between the Asante people and both sides suffering great casualties, the fifth and final war had taken place in the late nineteenth century. Before the fifth Anglo- Ashanti War also known as the War of the Golden Stool had taken place, many events contributed to its outcome. The stool is the throne of Ashanti royalty and is said to have descended from the sky and placed with the king. The golden stool signifies the divine right and power given to kings. This war with British was the final testimony in the fight for the Gold Coast, today is known as Ghana. British governor Hodgson, verbally mocked Ashanti’s Stool while not realizing the significance of his words until the Ashanti people acted. Hodgson suggested that the stool should have been given to him while visiting the kingdom. This infuriated the Ashanti people as well as the Queen mother. Who gather men to ambush the British as well as liberating the exiled King Prempeh I in the Seychelles islands. Asantewaa took immediate action. She believed that the white British Colonist did not take the Ashanti culture seriously and no matter what the people contributed to society would be viewed in a lower social status.
“In 1884, civil war broke out in Asante lands and raged for several years (“Asantewaa”).” This caused a mass destruction to both parties with little gain of profits on either side. Until the “signing of the 1896 treaty” between the British colonists and Asantewaa (Reed). This document was to aid in the outline in which each party expected to interact with each other but with high tension amongst both sides peace did not last long. Later a peace treaty was drawn up that required the Asante to relinquish any relationship with the southern territories and required to keep all trade routes accessible. Once this agreement was signed by both parties the Asante kingdom deteriorated and became a territory of the British Crown. The smallest spark could have the potential to ignite another war, the spark was the ignorance of a British Governor.
Asantewaa fought with British merchants in protecting its resources. Mining agents had attempted to infringe on local gold mines that had little resources to protect themselves. The British proceeded to revoke the native’s rights to the mines. The British declared that in previous treaty agreements Asante kingdom gave up their rights. Kokofu, a neighboring city had declared their allegiance to the British and believed the mines were under control of Kokofu. Since Asantewaa was a woman, she was limited in their culture to the involvement and participation of negotiating. Until she stated that the “Queen Mother and ruler, is the rightful person to lead negotiations in the land” she represents herself as a dignified council member fighting in the interest of her people (Reed). She presented herself to the British judicial system and pleaded her case. The British counterargued stating that “Edweso were freely ‘awarded’ to a loyal subject (Mccaskie).” The case was dismissed, and the mines remained in the trade control of Asante Kingdom.
The thriving kingdom was viewed as an obstacle towards Great Britain’s overtaking of the Gold Coast. “In 1872 British influence over the Gold Coast increased further when Britain purchased Elmina Castle” (Adu-Boahen). The last of the connections the Asante people had with the Dutch. This means that the Asante’s had lost a vital ally which connected them to ocean trades. They tried to preserve the last of the trade routes which was still in their power. The British commander and Asante rulers attempted to negotiate but those negotiations were quickly rejected.
In the early nineteenth century, British colonization in parts of North Africa had grown significantly. The leading factors driving in the colonization of the Gold Coast were the British involvement in the slave trade and raw materials. Throughout history relations between the Gold Coast and British have been problematic but did not disrupt trade routes of gold, palm oil, and lumber. British Merchants, in the early eighteenth century, did not honor the coastal allies and the people of Asante were forced to find aid with alternative coastal colonies. During the nineteenth century, Asante’s kingdom was thriving. Their strong trade routes and expanding borders aided in the development of the kingdom. These profitable trade routes made Asante a lucrative city.
Queen Mother, Nana Yaa Asantewaa, who was the leader and Commander-in-Chief of the fifth and final Anglo-Ashanti War. She was revered for her strong will and independent nature. For some, Asantewaa was a brave army general who led her people to war. She was given the title Queen Mother and used her title to publicly ridicule British imperial encroachment as well as to question the countries gender roles in Asante. Asantewaa inherited the throne matrilineally instead of patrilineal. Elders viewed Asantewaa as a menace towards the Asante traditional roles. Yaa Asantwaa defied male rulers, went against social customs, and fought for her country’s security; she was forced to be reckoned with. Asantwaa influenced Ghana in many ways including pollical and socially. Throughout this paper, I will be discussing Asantwaa’s crucial involvement in the Anglo- Ashanti War and in the Ashanti’s Kingdom development in race, nationality, and gender roles.