Yam Ceremony, Asante [Ashanti], Gold Coast, 1816-1818

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This record was last updated on 16 Jun 2016

Image Reference

Thomas E. Bowdich, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee (London, 1819), between pp. 274 and 275 (reprinted Frank Cass, 1966).

"The first day of the yam custom," a colored engraving (drawn by Bowdich and engraved by R. Havell & Son) showing procession, king's retainers, onlookers. On the right, the king is seated ("in a chair of ebony and gold") under the "state umbrella" (with the elephant on top); the flags of several European nations (Britain, Holland, Denmark) are to the right and left of the king's throne. The image shown here is the center portion of a large fold-out showing many details of this important public cermony. The right -hand section (not presented here) shows, among other activities, European guests seated and observing the ceremony. The annual "yam custom" was a major ceremonial occasion in which the Asante pledged loyalty to their king and much tribute was given; during the period various crimes were not punished. Bowditch was part of a British mission in 1816 sent to negotiate a treaty with the King of Asante. A detailed description of the ceremony, including the entire fold out illustration, is given in chapter 5. The full illustration is also reproduced in, among other sources, D. Hamilton and R. Blyth, Representing Slavery: Art, Artifacts and Archives in the Collections of the National Maritime Museum (London, 2007), pp. 238-239.