The last remains of Ghana’s ancient Ashanti civilisation

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2024

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Ashanti Traditional Buildings Site

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Near Ghana’s second city Kumasi, is the UNESCO listed Ashanti Traditional Buildings Site, made up of ten ancient fetish shrines. We visited the only one formally geared up for tourism, the Tano Yaw shrine in the village of Ejisu-Besease.

The Ashanti civilization peaked in the 18th century and the shrines are their last material remains. Their traditional religion, still practiced today, takes the form of consulting deities for advice in specific situations, or before important events. At Tano Yaw, the Queen Mother, Yaw Asantewaa, consulted the spirits before leading an attack on the British fort in Kumasi in 1901.

Four thatched single-room buildings, constructed of timber, bamboo and mud, were arranged in a square around an open courtyard. The white and terracotta walls were decorated with bas-reliefs depicting animals, birds and plants, as well as ‘Adinkra’ geometrical symbols with specific meanings associated with the ideas and beliefs of the Ashanti people.

Each building served a purpose: cooking, singing, and drumming, which was the main form of communication as it couldn’t be understood by the European enemy. The fourth was the ‘consulting or ritual room’ and we could see a closed door which led into a second room where the Obosom or deity resided. The only person allowed to enter was the Okomfo or fetish priest who consulted the deity and then passed on the advice.

Nearby was a shrine surrounded by empty green gin bottles which were given to the deity, and we were told it would often be full of the local gin but is now often a schnapps like drink. Medicinal herbs were planted near the shrine.

On the terraces of the buildings were lots of information boards and scale models of the other shrines which were all slightly different.

Helen Jackson

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