Nana Yaa Asantewa, warrior and great queen mother of Ejisu who led Asantes in a war against the British
Nana Yaa Asantewaa (c. 1840–17 October 1921) (pronounced YAH a-SAN-te-WAH) was a warrior, queen mother and one of the Africa`s great freedom fighters. She was arguably Ghana and Africa`s greatest fearless female warrior during colonial times. Yaa Asantewa who was the queen mother of Ejisu (Edweso) in the Ashanti Empire—now part of modern-day Ghana—by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, the Ejisuhene—or ruler of Ejisu. In 1900, she led the Ashanti (Asante) rebellion known as the War of the Golden Stool against British colonialism when the British Empire after looting Ashanti Kingdom and exiling King of Asante Prempeh I, dared to ask for their Golden Stool which symbolizes their soul as Nation and an ethnic group. She is populary referred to as "Africa`s Joan of Arc." When men panic and flee from danger, Yaa Asantewa laughs and face it squarely!
Yaa Asantewa queen mother of Edweso in her traditional dress
Her 1900 war with the British imperialists represented a final Anglo-Asante wars in Ghana after series of wars between them. Yaa Asantewa and her forces fought gallantly to redeem their Kingdom but they were defeated by the British who called in outside help of about 1,400 forces.
Yaa Asantewa remains a celebrated and a much-loved figure in Asante history and the history of Ghana in particular and history of Africa as a whole for her role in confronting the colonialism of the British. She is immortalized in song as follows:
Koo koo hin koo
Yaa Asantewaa ee!
Ogyina apremo ano ee!
Waye be egyae
Na Wabo mmode
The woman who fights before cannons
You have accomplished great things
You have done well")
Students of Yaa Asantewa Gilrs` Senior High School in Kumasi demontrating Yaa Asantewa`s Warfare strategies
Prelude to the Rebellion
During her brother's reign, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Asante Confederacy go through a series of events that threatened its future, including civil war from 1883 to 1888. When her brother died in 1894, Yaa Asantewaa used her right as Queen Mother to nominate her own grandson as Ejisuhene. When the British exiled him in the Seychelles in 1896, along with the King of Asante Prempeh I and other members of the Asante government, Yaa Asantewaa became regent of the Ejisu-Juaben District. After the deportation of Prempeh I, the British governor-general of the Gold Coast, Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool, the symbol of the Asante nation. This request led to a secret meeting of the remaining members of the Asante government at Kumasi, to discuss how to secure the return of their king. There was a disagreement among those present on how to go about this. Yaa Asantewaa, who was present at this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these now-famous words:
“ Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it [was] in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields. ”
With this, she took on leadership of the Asante Uprising of 1900, gaining the support of some of the other Asante nobility.
The rebellion and its aftermath
Beginning in March 1900, the rebellion laid siege to the fort at Kumasi where the British had sought refuge. The fort still stands today as the Kumasi Fort and Military Museum. After several months, the Gold Coast governor eventually sent a force of 1,400 to quell the rebellion. During the course of this, Queen Yaa Asantewaa and 15 of her closest advisers were captured, and they too were sent into exile to the Seychelles. The rebellion represented the final war in the Anglo-Asante series of wars that lasted throughout the 19th century. On 1 January 1902, the British were finally able to accomplish what the Asante army had denied them for almost a century, and the Asante empire was made a protectorate of the British crown.
Yaa Asantewaa died in exile in the Seychelles on October 17, 1921. Three years after her death, on 27 December 1924, Prempeh I and the other remaining members of the exiled Asante court were allowed to return to Asante. Prempeh I made sure that the remains of Yaa Asantewaa and the other exiled Asantes were returned for a proper royal burial. Yaa Asantewaa's dream for an Asante free of British rule was realized on 6 March 1957, when the Asante protectorate gained independence as part of Ghana, the first African nation in Subsaharan Africa to achieve this feat.
Why Yaa Asantewa as a Woman led the Asantes in War?
This could be answered by looking at social roles of Asante women and role of women in Akan culture in general which is matriarchal. The confrontation of a woman, serving as political and military head of an empire, was foreign to British colonial troops in 19th century Africa. Yaa Asantewaa's call upon the women of the Asante Empire is based upon the political obligations of the Akan women and their respective roles in legislative and judicial processes. The hierarchy of male stools among the Akan people were complimented by female counterparts. Within the village, elders known as (mpanyimfo) heads of the matrilineages, constituted with the village council known as the ôdekuro. These women known as the mpanyinfo referred to aberewa or ôbaa panyin, to look after women's affairs. For every ôdekuro, an ôbaa panyin acted as the responsible party for the affairs of the women of the village and served as a member of the village council. The head of a division, the ôhene and the head of the autonomous political community, the ômanhene, had their female counterparts known as the ôhemma: a female ruler who sat on their councils. The ôhemma and ôhene were all of the same mogya, blood or localized matrilineage. The occupant of the female stool in the Kumasi state, the Asantehemma, and therefore, the united Asante, since her male counterpart was ex officio of the Asanthene, was a member of the Ktôtôkô Council, the Executive Committee or Cabinet of the Asanteman Nhyiamu, General Assembly of Asante rulers. Female stool occupants participated in not only the judicial and legislative processes, but also in the making and unmaking of war, and the distribution of land.
Yaa Asantewa was exiled to Sychelles for daring to defend her nation`s Golden Stool
Yaa Asantewa as a Role Model for Women leadership
To highlight the importance of encouraging more female leaders in Ghanaian society, the Yaa Asantewaa Girls' Secondary School was established at Kumasi in 1960 with funds from the Ghana Educational Trust.
In 2000, week-long centenary celebrations were held in Ghana to acknowledge Yaa Asantewaa's accomplishments. As part of these celebrations, a museum was dedicated to her at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District on 3 August 2000. Unfortunately, a fire there on 23 July 2004, destroyed several historical items, including her sandals and battle dress (batakarikese) seen in the photograph above. The current Queen-mother of Ejisu is Yaa Asantewaa II. A second Yaa Asantewaa festival was held 1–5 August 2006, in Ejisu]
The Yaa Asantewaa Centre in Maida Vale, west London, is an African-Caribbean arts and community centre. It took its name in 1986.
A television documentary by Ivor Agyeman-Duah entitled Yaa Asantewaa - The Exile of King Prempeh and the Heroism of An African Queen was premiered in Ghana in 2001.
A stage show written by Margaret Busby, Yaa Asantewaa: Warrior Queen, featuring master drummer Kofi Ghanaba and with a pan-African cast, toured the UK and Ghana in 2001–02. A radio drama by the same author was also serialized 13–17 October 2003 on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour.
Asonaba Nana Yaa Asantewaa of Edweso
After the compulsory abdication of Nana Mensa Bonsu in 1883, there was a whole lot of conflict over succession within the Asante Empire. There were people who still supported him and wanted him back. Another group also agitated for the instalment of his senior brother Nana Kofi Kaakari who had previously been forced to abdicate and the third group wanted Barima Kwaku Dua. Eventually, in April 1884, Barima Kwaku Dua became Asantehene Nana Kwaku Dua ll but unfortunately he died of chicken pox just after 40 days on the Golden Stool. At this time the kingmakers decided to go for Nana Kofi Kaakari and it was agreed upon. Unfortunately Nana Kofi Kaakari, who had migrated to the Coast, could not arrived in Kumase to became the only Asantehene who would have been installed twice, because he died of dysentery on his way to Kumase. Once again, chaos and disorder started all over again, and the Asantemmaa Nana Yaa Akyeaa, appealed to the chiefs to remain united and give her the chance to present a new candidate within a short period of time. The Asantehemmaa subsequently nominated Nana Kwasi Kusi who had to be sworn-in in the presence of the British Governor.
Statue of Obaa Yaa Asantewa, the warrior queen mother of Edweo at Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, Ashanti Region, Ghana
Unfortunately, it took the Governor so long a time to send a representative that by the time he arrived Nana Kwasi Kusi had also died. Nana Kwasi Kusi's death brought two contestants to the Stool. The Asantehemmaa was so desperate that she decided to have his son who was very young installed as the next Asantehene. Many people including some paramount chiefs objected to this decision by the Asantehemmaa for two reasons. The first one was that Barima Akwasi Prempeh was at the age of eighteen and was considered too young to lead a nation like Asanteman.
Secondly, when the Asanteman was formed and the great Priest Anokye Komfo created the Golden Stool, although he himself was very fair in complexion, he warned the Asantes not to allow any fair coloured person to be installed as a King. Barima Akwasi Prempeh was very fair and this was seen as something contrary to what the great Priest had said. This brought Barima Yaw Atwereboana as his opponent and even paramount chiefs like Mamponhene, Nsutahene, Kokofuhene, Adansehene and Dadeasehene supported him. On the other hand the following States also supported Barima Akwasi Prempeh, Dwaben,Kumase, Edweso, Offinso, Bekwae and Nkoranza. In the ensuing civil war these states fought each other and the War General of Barima Akwasi Prempeh was Edwesohene Nana Kofi Afrane. Eventually Nana Kofi Afrane and his troops won the battle and Nana Prempeh became the next Asantehene with the stool name Nana Kwaku Dua lll but he was later on referred to as Nana Agyeman Prempeh l.
I would like to recall that with the Treaty of Fomena in 1874, the Asantes were obliged to a) Pay an indemnity of 50.000 ounces of gold to the British. b) Renounce all their claims to Denkyera, Assin, Akyem and Adanse. c) Renounce all their claims to Elmina and all other allied tribes as well as all payments from the Government in respect of the forts at Elmina, Cape Coast and Accra.
d) Undertake within a prescribed time the withdrawal of all their troops from South-West and other places. Shortly after this treaty the Asantes were for the first time engaged in a serious civil war and the result of this civil war was the instalment of Nana Agyeman Prempeh l. Nana Prempeh's primary goal was to unite the Asantes again and maintain their independence as much as possible. This independence was being threatened by the British Imperialism. With this in mind, Nana Prempeh sent a delegation to England to negotiate with the Queen as well as the British government to find a political agreement and explore economic investment in Asante.
The Asantes were trying to use diplomatic means to get the British completely out of Kumase. This method however failed because on January 17th, 1896, British troops besieged the City of Kumase and arrested Nana Agyeman Prempeh l on the orders of the Governor Mr. W.E. Maxwell. Also arrested were: his mother, Asantehemmaa Nana Yaa Akyeaa, his father Nana Kwasi Gyambibi, who was Apebiakyerehene at the Palace of the King, the Adumhene who was also the brother of Nana Prempeh; chiefs of Bantama and Asafo, Oyokohene, Akyempemhene, Akomforehene and Akyeamehene. Others were Mamponhene, Offinsohene and Edwesohene.
It is very significant to know that Nana Prempeh and the chiefs did not resist this arrest because of two main reason. One, Nana Prempeh himself knew that Komfo Anokye had prophesied that if the Asantes should install a fair coloured King that will cause the doom and collapse of the Empire and so he was scared to go to War since that might have caused the end of the empire and so he decided to accept the offer of the British to be sent through Sierra Leone and finally to the Seychelles island. The second reason was since the British were requesting for the Golden Stool, the King did not want to risk the possibility of losing the Stool in a war against the British. According to Prof. Adu Boahene, Nana Prempeh and 52 people arrived in Sierra Leone on September 11th, 1900.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa was born at Besease in Edweso to Nana Kwabena Ampoma and Nana Atapo. Her only true brother was Nana Afrane l who became the chief of Edweso.
It is not very clear when the great queen was born, according to Prof. Adu Boahene, who based his assumption on the census conducted in the Seychelles Island, Nana Yaa Asantewaa was most probably born in 1832. According to oral tradition, she might have become the Queen of Edweso at the age of 45. She married Nana Kwabena Owusu and brought forth only one daughter called Nana Ama Serwaa Brakatu. She in turn had eleven children.
By 1896, after the King and most of his paramount chiefs had been deported to Seychelles Island, the British was in control of Asante and they had some stooges to occupy some stools that were not theirs. For example there is this famous case where one Nana Osei Bonsu who was a royal of Mampong and had no relationship to the Bantama stool, was made the Bantamahene because he connived with the British.
On March 28th 1900, a grand durbar was organise for Governor Arnold Hodgson in Kumase within the premises of the Kumase Fort, which is now called Yaa Asantewaa Fort. In his speech the Governor demanded that the Golden Stool should be brought for him to sit on it. Those chiefs present at the durbar included Mamponhene, Bekwaehene, Kokofuhene, Dwabenhene, Adansehene, Agonahene, Nkwantahene, Kumawuhene and of course Nana Yaa Asantewaa who was the queen and acting chief of Edweso. Others present were Nana Afrifa, Nana Adu Gyamfi, Nana Fofie and Nana Antoa Mensa, and they later formed the war committee of Nana Yaa Asantewaa.
After the Governor made his request all the chiefs were sitting down and could not utter a word. According to Ivor Agyeman Dua, it was here that Nana Yaa Asantewaa stood up and made the following statement for the English interpreter to translate to the Governor, "tomorrow ghost widows would get husbands". This was a declaration of War. She then turned to the silent Asante men and addressed them as follows: "How can a proud and brave people like the Asantes sit back and look on while the white man take away your King and chiefs, and humiliate you with the demand for the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool only means money to the white man and that is why they have searched and dug everywhere for it. I shall not pay one predwan (8 pounds 2 shillings) to the governor. If you chiefs are going to behave like cowards who are too frightened to fight then exchange your loin cloths with my undergarments, meaning “ montu mo danta mma me na monnye me tam. It is interesting to note that coincidentally Nana Yaa Asantewaa was among the very few women at this particular gathering.
It will be recalled that Nana Yaa Asantewaa's only brother who was the chief of Edweso was among the chiefs who had already been sent with Nana Agyeman Prempeh l to Seychelles Island. After addressing the Asante chiefs, Nana Yaa Asantewaa walked to the Governor and sarcastically admired his uniform. She then insisted on going up to the dais to shake hands with Mrs. Mary Hodgson, wife of the Governor. In the process, she soiled and spoilt the white gloves of the Governor`s wife with the spit of chewed cola-nut she had stored in her palm for that. Thereafter she turned to the Governor and spoke to him in the native Asante language by using the following words: "Foolish white man, who are you to demand the Golden Stool? The Golden Stool is for the King of Asante and not for people like you!!! Do you belong to the Royal Family of Asante? Where is our King? Go and bring him and I will personally show you where the Golden Stool is!! He is the only custodian of the Stool, foolish white man, go away and leave us alone."
It is not known why, but the Governor did not show any sign of anger at Nana Yaa Asantewaa. Whether the interpreter translated everything accurately or not the Governor`s reaction to all the insults was to send soldiers to Barekese, a suburb of Kumase, to search for the Golden Stool. It is interesting to note that there was an Asante citizen called Kwame Tua who had previously collected money from the British and promised to tell them where the Golden stool was. He was somebody no one could take seriously, and at that time there was a saying that "Kwame Tua te a oburoni nso ate", this means if Kwame Tua knows anything, then the white man will also know. At Bare the British met a strong resistance by the combined forces of the people of Bare, Offinso, Agogo and Atwima. When the citizens of Bare and neighbouring suburbs heard the first gunshot at Bare, they started saying "etuo ato wo Bare", meaning there have been some gunshots at Bare. This brought to life that saying among the Asantes "etuo ato wo Bare". With these gunshots at Bare the Asantewaa War was declared.
Yaa Asantewa`s statue at Edweso
From there Asonaba Nana Yaa Asantewaa started mobilising forces to form a formidable force against the British in the inevitable war to protect the Golden Stool. However, she had serious problems bringing forces together for two reasons: a) After arresting most of the paramount and important chiefs, some of the stools were occupied by the Governor`s nominees while others were still vacant and with that it was very difficult to reach the masses although she travelled extensively within a very short period of time in order to be able to convince all the citizens of the Golden Stool to come together and defend the Stool that represents the Unity of the Asanteman. b). The civil war that erupted during the contest for the Asantehene between Nana Prempeh and Nana Atwereboana. Some people were sort of suspicious with regard to the primary aim of Nana Yaa Asantewaa, especially the supporters of Nana Yaw Atwereboana.
They could not dismiss the idea that Nana Yaa Asantewaa was so eager to fight only because she wanted to bring back Nana Prempeh and have him installed as the Asantehene. It is interesting to note that Asantes normally would do everything to protect the Golden Stool but not necessarily the occupants at all times. Eventually she was able to mobilize forces together and on March 30th 1900 at the her Palace at Edweso a War Council was formed. Those who belonged to this War Council were: Nana Kofi Fofie`s a son chief of Kaase, Nana Kwame Gyansa a native of Bantama, Nana Kwame Afrifa â€“ chief of Atwima, Nana Kwadwo Antwi â€“ Akwamuhene and Captain of the Offinso contingent, Nana Kwame Adum Asamoa`s the famous chief executioner, Nana Osei Kwadwo Krome`s son of a Bantamahene, Nana Antwi Agyei â€“ chief of Nkawie, Nana Kwabena Nkwantabisa`s chief of Odumase and leader of Adanse, Nana Antoa Mensa of Antoa, Nana Kofi Adu`s chief of Buromfu, Nana Kwaku Nsia`s chief of Asante Akropong and Nana Yaa Asantewaa as the commander- in- Chief.
It will be recalled that it was at this meeting that Nana Yaa Asantewaa made the most convincing speech of her life. She addressed the members of the war committee as follows:
"Brave men of Asante, we are now faced with a serious confrontation by the Governor`s extremely provocative demand for the Golden Stool. We should remember that the Golden Stool is not only our spiritual backbone but also the religious symbol of the unity of Asanteman. Not quite long ago the white man came and unilaterally occupied our God-given land and by force of arms has declared Asante Kingdom as a British Protectorate. We should also not forget that during the time of Nana Kofi Kaakari the aggressors waged a senseless war on us, destroyed the seat of the Asante monarchy and burnt our Palace after looting all the treasures bequeathed to us by our fore bearers. Taking our brave men for a ride, the Governor arbitrarily arrested and deported our King with some paramount chiefs without you men rising even a finger. Aren`t you ashamed of yourselves? Today he has come to demand the Golden Stool. I am asking you all here, shall we sit down as cowards and let these rouges take away our pride? We should rise up and defend our heritage because it is better to perish than to look on sheepishly while the white man whose sole business in our country is to steal, kill and destroy and shamelessly demand for our sacred Stool. Arise!¦arise, men of Osei Tutu and Opoku Tenten, because I am prepared to lead you to war against the white men. I am urging all the WOMEN here to go home and stay behind because WE the MEN are ready for War. Should anyone of you be afraid to fight; may he be punished for his shameful act by the great Asante god Odomankoma." Interestingly, she was the only woman at this meeting.
The war Council under the leadership of Nana Yaa Asantewaa and backed by the chiefs and people of Offinso, Abofuor, Bechem, Nkwanta, Atwoma, Edweso and Kokofu declared full scale war on the British with the initial 20.000 armed men. Others who also fought on the side of the Asante Army were Kumase, Duayaw-Nkwanta, Takyimantia, Adanse and Kuntanase. The following States decidedly stayed neutral because the chiefs did not want to fight:Bompata, Kumawu, Atebubu, Gyaman, Nkoranza, and Bekwae. The following also were not engaged in the war because they had previously gone into some peace terms with the British: Takyiman, Wankyi, Berekum, Wam and manso Nkwanta. Chiefs like Mamponghene, Nsutahene and Agonahene, who were appointed by the British even fought on the side of the British. The Dwabenhene, Nana Otuo Serebour l decided to remain neutral and even at one time during the war made an effort to negotiate a cease-fire between the Asantes and the British.
The siege of Kumase began with a march from Edweso and ended at the fort on April 8th 1900. Nana Yaa Asantewaa might have been in her 60s when this war started. She ordered the incessant bombardment of Pro-British elements in the Capital Kumase and this compelled the British and other aliens to seek refuge in the fort. The war started April through October 1900. After the British had run out of ammunition and logistics life became very unbearable for them at the Fort because Nana Yaa Asantewaa ordered that the death drum should be played everyday for several hours. This psychological trick worked because there were a lot of Asantes at the Fort too and they translated the meaning of the drums to the British. Those Asantes who were not prepared to fight were afraid to be intimidated and so they all sort refuge at the Fort. The most prominent among them was the Dwabenhene, Nana Otuo Serebour l and his elders. Because the British had no food and ammunition the constant booming of the death drum was like death to them. According to Lady Hodgson, she at a certain point in time at the Fort wished she was dead because she could not bear the sound and the interpretation. According to A. Danqua, one of the effective strategies used by Nana Yaa Asantewaa was to stretch the British soldiers and their allies from Nigeria to starvation. She cut off the food supplies to the Fort and when the European officers and their soldiers found out that their wives and children were starving to death they were demoralised and very desperate. This strategy proved very effective because Nana Yaa Asantewaa established blockades at every point that led to Kumase and appointed various War generals to take care of that. This was very effective because it did not only slow down the advance of the British soldiers but also cost them manpower.
According to oral tradition, the British soldiers were so hungry that some of them even ate rats. The slow movement also led to increase in the death as well as suffering of the people in the Fort. The blockades were some 6 or 7 feet high and 4 feet in thickness built of gigantic forest trees land length ways, the interstices filled up with switch and twigs and brambles and bound together with telegraphic wires. It had wings to it which extended into the bush on either side and were thus hidden from sight. This technology was said to have been the idea of the Army General Antoa Mensa of Antoa. He commanded the rear guard regiment which was expeditiously despatched to reinforce the existing forces at the various stockades. He was in the forefront during the siege of Kumase City and finally the Fort. Antoa Mensa was in charge of a large contingent consisting of 1.500 men stationed in Kumase city to beat back any attempt by the British to rescue the besieged men and women in the Fort.
Another tactic used by Nana Yaa Asantewaa was the war of deception, the Asantes used pieces of plantains (trees) tied to the rope to divert the attention of the British army. It happened that during the siege at the Fort, the British soldiers peeped through the sniper spot at the fort and shot at the Asante soldiers who were fighting from outside the Fort. The trick with the trees was therefore an antidote to that. They cut plantain trees into pieces, about 1.69 metres long and tied them to a rope and threw them on top of the thicket around the Fort. They would lie down and pull the ropes so that the piece of plantain trapped in the thicket would cause some movements which the British mistook for human beings. The British subsequently wasted their ammunition and this compelled the Governor to request for reinforcement and ammunition. It was at this time that Governor realised the danger. He sent an SOS to the Coast, requesting for food, medicine and of course for reinforcement. In his message he said, "we shall be able to hold out at the most until Wednesday, June 20th 1900. You must arrive here latest by that date. If this message reaches you, reply immediately informing me where you are and when you can arrive. You will however have to overcome at least two blockades."
Yaa Asantewa`s statue at Yaa Asantewa Girls` Senior High School in Kumasi
The Governor at this point made an effort to negotiate a cease-fire with Nana Yaa Asantewaa but since he refused to meet the conditions she (Nana Yaa Asantewaa) made, the soldiers continued to tighten up the blockade so that conditions for the British soldiers became much unbearable. The conditions Nana Yaa Asantewaa made were: a) To bring back Nana Prempeh as soon as practicable. b) No Asante should be compelled to do any labour and that all the foreigners including the Governor`s representative, should leave Kumase right away. After a second attempt for a cease-fire also failed the Governor decided with his soldiers to escape. The Asantes got the information so they decided to change the route. Nana Yaa Asantewaa then declared that should they manage to escape, General Antoa Mensa was to go after the Governor and his troops to bring him back dead or alive.
According to oral tradition Nana Yaa Asantewaa made this declaration whilst riding on her horse with her face partly smeared with clay, in both black and white colours with her Danish rifle in her right hand and a chopping knife in her left hand. She paraded the streets of Kumase to give orders and made sure they were executed with absolute accuracy. She then went to the Fort and started shouting, "Where are they? Fools!! Why did you come to our land for? You want our Stool? It is in my gun so come for it." She was so furious that she made the first attempt to capture the Fort itself. Their efforts were futile because Captain Marshall, who had about 250 Asantes at his disposal fought them back and this caused Nana Yaa Asantewaa and his troops about 200 men. These men were later buried in a mass grave behind the court building, just opposite the present Yaa Asantewaa Fort in Kumase. With this experience Nana Yaa Asantewaa decided to avoid direct confrontation because the British soldiers had more superior weapons and it was dangerous to engage them in a direct combat. Meanwhile, the Governor and most of their soldiers as well as wife and children were still kept as "prisoners" in the Fort and life became very bad for them.
Fortunately for them on May 11th 1900, the neutral Asante chiefs who were also in the Fort managed to negotiate a cease-Fire for some days and the Bristish were able to bring in some food and medicine. It was however forbidden for them to bring in more weapons. This did not work out because on May 15th Major Morris managed to fight his way to Kumase through the Kintampo/Nkoranza stockade, which was under the command of Nana Kwadwo Antwi of Offinso. Meanwhile the SOS message sent by the Governor was been heeded to and the British sent a Relief Column through Bekwae. Since Bekwae was fighting on the side of the British it was easy to come as near as Trede, a village near Kumase. The British engaged the Asantes in a direct combat and were so overwhelming that the Asantes lost a lot of their soldiers. Trede was eventually burnt and some of the Asante soldiers were taken as prisoners. Lt.Col. Wilkinson was much successful than his colleagues because he was used to bush fighting from his experience in India.
Some of the Asante soldiers even fled their stockades, leaving behind their ammunition and even their colleagues who were wounded. Victory was in sight as the British started gaining control over the Asante Army. With this the Governor decided to leave Kumase and escape. On the next day the Governor, as well as Mr and Mrs. Ramseyer, the head of the Missionaries in Asante, and most of the aliens in the Fort left through Patase, heading towards Denkyera and Cape Coast. General Antoa Mensa and his men went after them and were supposed to bring the Governor dead or alive. The General and his men got so close to the British and fought the rear guard so fiercely that the British dropped their loads in order to be able to catch up with the main troops. General Antoa Mensa and his men made the greatest mistake they could, instead of going after the British soldiers they stopped to pick up the loads that even contained money and ornaments. They thought they would gain more from the spoils. Before they could realise anything the Governor and his people were already gone.
Meanwhile the Governor had already abandoned the idea of ever getting hold of the Golden stool because they sometimes had to search at five places at a time and none of the information they had proved reliable. According to Ivor Agyeman Duah, the following people took care of the Golden Stool at different times, Nana Abamo brought it from Bare to hid it at Wawaase and later on it was taken by Nana Obuabasa Opoku Mensa to Abuabugya. There were some other hideouts for the Golden Stool that have been kept secret for all these years. The PINANKO BRETUO FAMILY of Wawaase are very popular among those who have kept the Golden for several years and we Asantes owe them a lot for that. It will be recalled that one of the main reasons why this Yaa Asantewaa War came about was the Governorâ€™s intention to take the Golden Stool with him to London and although the Asantes were losing the War at this stage, the British could not take the Stool away.
As the British terror of attack was intensified, confusion and disorder spread through the Asante lines. Through out the war the Asantes had not experienced such a mysterious onslaught and ferocity. Most of the soldiers just succumb to the British and others ran away. Victory was in sight as the British troops gained control over the Asante army. The gate of the Fort was flung open, and Captain Bishop, Mr Rolf and Dr. Hay came out followed by the rest. The Commandant, Col. Wilcox then entered the Fort with his men on schedule.
The African soldiers in the British Army dashed into the streets of Kumase and inflicted an unprecedented atrocities on the Asante soldiers who were fleeing, and that was the fall of Kumase. Asante was humiliated and Nana Yaa Asantewaa reverted to her womanhood. Although Nana Yaa Asantewaa had sometime during the war had some good moments of control, eventually she has lost and needed a place to hide. According to Osei Kwadwo, in the dying days of November 1900, she left Edweso for Kumase to begin a long refugee march by road to Sreso Timpoomu, a small village, about 85 kilometres from Kumase, near the Mponua-Ahafo border. She initially went to Mehame, in the Offinso Traditional area where her aunt Nana Afranewaa was the Offinsohemmaa but was compelled to leave because the British soldiers were after her. According to Nana Sreso Timpoomuhene, Nana Yaa Asantewaa came with a ten year old girl, who was serving as her servant. Before reaching Sereso, she stopped at Kunso but the people were scared to keep her there since the British were searching all over the place for her with more than a thousand men. She then proceeded to Mpasaaso and here the people advised her to go further to Sereso since the chief there was from the Asona family and they might do all they can to protect her.
Nana Yaa Kyeiwaa and Nana Agyapomaa hosted her in their house at Sereso and the descendants of this family still possess some gifts that Nana Yaa Asantewaa left with them. A few days later she was betrayed by Kwame Tua and was finally arrested by the British soldiers. Meanwhile most of the ringleaders of the war had been apprehended by the British police and already sent to custody. Notwithstanding her victory in the war, Her Majesty the Queen of England, considered Nana Yaa Asantewaa, "persona non grata" and the only alternative was to exile her to a far away country to ensure the security of the colonialists in the country.
On May 17th ,1901, the Queen ordered the deportation of Nana Yaa Asantewaa and 13 Asante chiefs to the Seychelles Islands. Those who were also deported with Nana Yaa Asantewaa were as follows: Nana Kwame Afrifa, Nana Kofi Fofie, Nana Kwadwo Antwi, Kwame Asamoa, Nana Osei Kwadwo Krome, Nana Antwi Agyei, Nana Akwasi Aderi, Nana Kwabena Nkwantabisa, Nana Adu Kofi, Nana Kofi Kuma, Nana Kwame Akroma and Nana Kwaku Berchie. They were conveyed on the transport "DWARKA" by May 25th 1901. And they were to be made political prisoners on the Islands. They might have arrived by the latter part of 1901 in the Seychelles. When they arrived Nana Yaa Asantewaa was made to settle on an estate of about 27 acres in an area 2 and a half miles from Victoria. She and all the other chiefs were paid monthly stipends or allowances each by the Gold Coast Government. Nana Yaa Asantewaa even had servants that she was paying monthly salary out of her monthly allowances. Nana Yaa Asantewaa became a converted Christian and even took some lessons to learn the English alphabets. She died on the Islands on October 17th, 1921, as a result of a chronic toothache. She was buried on the Islands. May her Soul Rest in Peace.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa's Stool stolen by the British.
The sacred Stool of Nana Yaa Asntewaa disappeared simultaneously with the capture and deportation of Nana Yaa Asantewaa. The people of Edweso were very disappointed over that suspected the British for having seized that for the Queen of England, who according to Governor Hodgson wanted the Golden Stool. The Royals of Edweso were convinced the British had taken Nana Yaa Asantewaaâ€™s stool as a reprisal against them for the part they played in the war. Meanwhile, the British people could not see the sense demanding the Golden Stool and the public condemn Governor Hodgson for what was described as a blunder. The reason was that the British were convinced the sacrilegious claim for the Golden Stool did not only generate dislike for Her Majestyâ€™s Government but also caused the death of a number of citizens from both combatants of the war. Although the successor of the Mr Hodgson, Major Nathan and Lady Hodgson made every effort to shift the blame on Asantes and even tried to say the interpreter who did the translation for the Governor on the faithful day where he claimed the Golden Stool might have misinterpreted him, the British people requested a verbatim report on the durbar at which the alleged claim was done. When this report was reproduced, it confirmed that the Governor categorically made a sacrilegious demand for the Golden Stool.
In the June 5th 1950 issue of the widely read Daily Mirror in England, Mr W. Edward Hulme, a principal of Disabled Soldiers and Sailor`s Agencies and Supplies(DSSAS), a British organisation, was quoted as saying the he bought the sacred stool for 4 pounds 10 shillings, when he was deployed to keep Nana Yaa Asantewaaâ€™s palace under surveillance during the search for her after the war. He was reported to have said when he found the stool in a broom cupboard he did not believe the stool was valuable but after a close look and polishing it he decided to buy and send it to London.
Now the old wooden stool described by Hulme as seemingly valueless had become an affair of State between Mr James Griffiths, the Colonial Secretary and the ruler of Ejisu State, Nana Akwasi Afranie lll the Daily Mirror commented. The newspaper commented further, "It is the stool of Yaa Asantewaa, the Joan of Arc" of Africa who rallied her people to lay siege on the Kumase Fort 50 years ago. The report generated a series of correspondence between the Nana Afranie and the Colonial Office on one hand and Mr. Hulme and the Colonial Secretary on the other. The claim by Mr Hulme that he bought the stool was debunked by an inscription on a metal plate found on the stool. This metal was fixed immediately after the war and bore an inscription â€œ Taken from the Palace of Nana Yaa Asantewaa at Edweso, Asante, 30th August 1900.
As a result of that, Mr Hulme consented to restore the sacred stool to Edwesohene under the authority of Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh ll, the Asantehene. Subsequently, the Secretary of State sent an invitation to the Edwesohene, requesting him to travel to England and collect the stool on behalf of his state. In a letter dated 22nd July 1951, the Edwesohene stated as a result of illness he has to decline the invitation and requested the Secretary to hand over the stool to Mr H.R Drewry, a citizen of Edweso who was a resident in London. After series of negotiations the stool was finally presented to Messrs. H.R. Drewry and T. Boatin, who represented the Edwesohene, on June 24th 1951 at 4 pm in London. Also present at the presentation were about 300 citizens of the Gold Coast, especially Asantes. After this incident another magazine, called West Africa requested that the British Government is responsible for the Mr Hulme's theft and should as such come out publicly to condemn that and at the same time render an apology to the people of Edweso and Gold Coast as a whole. This was subsequently done by the Secretary for Colonies on August 24th 1951.
Students of Yaa Asantewa Girls