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GHANA STUDIES / Volume 3 ISSN 1536-5514 / E-ISSN 2333-7168© 2000 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System 97 THE ROLE OF NANA YAA ASANTEWAA IN THE 1900 ASANTE WAR OF RESISTANCE ARHIN BREMPONG Introduction On the occasion of the centenary commemoration of the 1900 war, the object of this paper is to examine the role of Nana Yaa Asantewaa, the QueenMother of Edweso (Ejisu), an Asante principality, in the Asante-British war of 1900 known to the Asante people as the “Yaa Asantewaa War” and to the British as the “Last (Ashanti) Rising” (Fuller 1921: 185), but which I choose to call the Resistance War of 1900. This examination proceeds by matching the Asante legend of Yaa Asantewaa as a fighter against the reports on her in the British written sources, with a view to establishing just what she did during the war. The Asante view of Yaa Asantewaa is embodied in a song that I heard during my childhood at Barekese,1 one of the battlefields of the 1900 war. The song was: Krokro hin ko2 Krokro hin ko Yaa Asantewaa Yaa Asantewaa Oba basia a The mere woman Ogyina apermo ano Who faces the cannon3 Krokro hin ko Krokro hin ko Yaa Asantewaa Yaa Asantewaa In order to answer the question of the nature of her role during the war, one must turn to the British written sources, such as in Metcalfe (1964) and 1. 12 miles off Kumasi in the Nwabiagya sub-district of the Atwima District. 2. These words are apparently exclamatory. 3. This echoes a line in the praise poem of the Asantehene: Kaekae Gyame a Ode ntutua ko apremo ano! Kaekae Gyame Who fights the cannon with the musket! 98 Ghana Studies • volume 3 • 2000 Fuller (1921). G. E. Metcalfe’s work consists of selected official documents, correspondence, reports, and minutes of meetings of the colonial administration of the Gold Coast and of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Colonial Office in London. Fuller’s writing on the 1900 war was based on documents in the office of the Chief Commissioner of Ashanti to which he had unhindered access as Chief Commissioner, 1905–1920. Beside her role in the resistance war, interest in Nana Yaa Asantewaa also lies in the extent to which she departed from the military and political roles of Asante women, particularly those of high office. Therefore, this paper must include a sketch of those roles. Already Wilks (1993: 329–369) has shown how another Asante woman of high status, Akyaa(wa), a daughter of Okoawia Osei Kwadwo, Asantehene (r. 1764–77), “blazed a trail” or oyi akwan by being appointed by Nana Osei Yaw Akoto, Asantehene (r. 1823–1834), as the head of a diplomatic mission that successfully negotiated the Maclean (Anglo-Asante) Treaty of 20 April 1831, and another treaty with the Danes at Christiansborg Castle on 9 August 1831. Akyaa’s distinction lay in being the first woman to be appointed the head of a diplomatic mission and a “chief negotiator” of treaties. In the attempt to determine the actual role of Nana Yaa Asantewaa in the war and hence the real basis of her distinction, the paper will look at the historical context of the war, its major events including its planning and, as noted, the political and military role of Asante women or the sociological context. The Historical Context of the War In the history of the British in the Gold Coast the period 1874–1896 was one of hesitant imperialism, when they could not make up their minds how much territory they wanted. But it is fairly well-known that in 1893, Nana Prempeh I, Asantehene, rejected an invitation from Frederick Hodgson , then colonial secretary and acting governor of the Gold Coast Colony, to Asante to become a British protectorate, and Asante suffered no attack from the British. Yet in January 1896, Sir William Maxwell, the Governor of the Gold Coast, went to Kumasi and at a public meeting ordered the arrest of the Asantehene, his mother, and a number of subordinate rulers and advisers. The captives were thereafter sent successively to Elmina, Brempong • Nana Yaa...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2333-7168
Print ISSN
1536-5514
Pages
pp. 97-110
Launched on MUSE
2019-05-17
Open Access
No
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