Did you know that one of the oldest cities in originated from the plantation of three mythical trees?
Kumasi is the capital city of the Ashanti region and the ancient capital of the Ashanti Kingdom. It is one of the centres of the history and culture of Ghana. Traditions are still highly valued here, however, they blend in with modern life. The predominant language here is Twi.
Historically and culturally Kumasi is the heart of the Ashanti Region that withholds the essence of Ghana’s culture. Kumasi is also widely known as “The Garden City” of West Africa due to its beautiful species of flowers and plants.
Prior to the British colonisation, Kumasi was the capital of one of the greatest civilizations of Africa - the Ashanti Empire. Towards the end of the 19th century - in 1873 - after a series of wars and battles British Army captured Kumasi. It was largely destroyed and unfortunately, not much remains today of its former glory. Part of the astonishing Asante gold regalia nowadays is also exhibited in the British Museum, London.
Kumasi was established by the King Osei Tutu I with guidance from the priest Okomfo Anokye at the end of the 17th century. Okomfo Anokye was a renowned traditional priest from the 1600s who is credited with helping the Otumfour(the title of the Ashanti paramount chief) in establishing the Ashanti kingdom. The priest planted 3 Kuma trees at three different locations and predicted that one tree would live and become the capital of Ashanti. One at Kwaaman, the second one at Apemso-Bankofo, and the third in the village Oboani. The tree at Oboani grew very tiny and for no apparent reason was relatively short. The name of the village was changed to Kuma meaning ‘small Kuma’. The Kuma tree at Apemso-Bankofo did not grow at all. A few weeks later the leaves got rotten, and the tree fell. It was said that the Kuma tree has died or the Kum tree was dead. From there the village name changed to Kumawu - ‘the Kuma tree died’. The 3rd Kuma tree at Kwaaman flourished and grew into an enormous, lush tree. The King and his people often were sitting under the tree. From there Kwaaman became Kum-ase meaning ‘tree has flourished’ and Kumasi became the capital. Kumasi is the home of the current Ashanti King or the Asantehene - Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
A noteworthy fact when visiting Kumasi is that the ”Asantehene” is the absolute monarch of the Kingdom of Asante - its cultural region Asante and of the Asante ethnic group. The King presides over traditional courts. The Asanthene resides in the Manhyia Palace.
Today Kumasi is the second busiest town in Ghana. It is known for its ever vibrant and attractive atmosphere. It is the home of the biggest movie production studios (Kumawood) in Ghana. It is also the home of famous entertainers and movie stars. It might interest you to know that the WWE superstar Kofi Kingston comes from Kumasi. They also celebrate the Akwasidae festival.
Historically Kumasi and the Ashanti people have been known for their Bravery and stubborn resilience. Therefore, most of their monumental traditional artifacts and regalia were destroyed as punishment by the British army and the rest were taken away forcefully to the museum of London, Present-day England. However, in Kumasi, there are a few places that you might want to visit to get a better insight into the culture.
Manhyia Palace Museum - this palace was built in 1925 by the British. Kings used the palace until 1974 and now it has been turned into a museum that exhibits the residence’s original furnishings and royal memorabilia and tells the story of the Asante people.
Okomfo Anokye Sword Site - Situated on the grounds of the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi. The Sword Site is a big part of Asante's history. A popular myth in west Africa exists about the legendary priest Okomfo Anokye was the one who planted this sword in the earth and all attempts to remove it have proved futile. So, a sword wedged in the rock is one of the main artifacts reminding about the rich history of the Asante nation. If you are lucky, you may run into the Asante king himself. He often comes to pay his respects at this sacred site.
Kejetia Market - colourful, vibrant, and the biggest and one of the most popular markets of West Africa, hosting thousands of stalls (around 1100) and four times as many people. All sorts of food and artefacts can be bought here.
Kumasi Fort and Ghana Armed Forces Museum - The Kumasi Fort and Military Museum are one of few military museums in the whole of Africa. It was built in 1820 by the Asantehene Osei Tutu Kwamina. The vast collection includes weapons, medals, cars, photographs, and portraits. This museum shows the evolution and development of the Gold Coast Regiment of the colonial era, to the present-day Ghana Armed Forces. National Cultural Centre - Only 5 min walk from the Kejetia Market is The National Cultural Centre, which has become one of the major attractions in Kumasi. It hosts artisan workshops, a performance centre, a museum, a library, and a craft shop. On public holidays, various types of performances take place in the afternoon.
Lake Bosomtwe, you simply cannot visit Kumasi without visiting this amazing site. It is told in local folklore that a hunter once chased an injured antelope in a forest and it ran towards this lake and was never seen again. To this day the lake is viewed as a god, and the locals believe that when people pass away, they say their last goodbyes to the river before entering the spirit world. The lakeside is well designed and anyone visiting it will leave with a happy memory.
Do not forget to have a look at the traditional Asante buildings. They are on the UNESCO World Heritage list and are probably the last testimony of the unique architectural style of the great Asante Kingdom.
Next time when you are planning your trip, make sure you add Kumasi to your list. I assure you of a good time. Kumasi people or as they’re fondly called ‘kumericans’ are very social people , so feel free to ask for direction and leave a kind word whenever they give you any sort of assistance, you’ll have the best time ever.