It was a kingdom united in grief for the death of the Queen mother of the Ashanti stool Asantehemaa Nana Afia Kobi Serwaa, Ampem II, the mother of Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II
For 39 years she gave her all in selfless service to a kingdom robed in power, majesty and rich history but died in her sleep last week at age 111.
Thousands came, chiefs and their subjects, young adults and old, teenagers, men and women came from far and near to witness the one-week celebration of the passing of the woman, the mother who honoured the Asante kingdom and brought a finer, feminine face to the most revered but feared kingdom in the land.
Her one-week remembrance was meant to be a solemn period to mourn and celebrate her. So it was for most part of the day, Thursday, until the politicians arrived.
The solemnity of the occasion gave way to chants, hoots for President John Mahama and his biggest adversary in December’s election Nana Akufo-Addo suggestive of a political campaign ground; indicative of the political season the country is engrossed in. And it all happened at the Manhyia Palace, much to the chagrin of some chiefs.
The Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu had just arrived in the Palace garden on his palanquin, gesturing, in his black cloth, his face, straight without emotion.
If the Ghanaian folklore gave no room for the tears of grieving ordinary man in public, it certainly demanded higher tenacity for a king who sits on a throne with a dozen more chiefs and sub-chiefs all looking up to him. Even when he is burying his mother, a studious face was a non-negotiable requirement. For tears in a Ghanaian folklore is a sign of weakness, something the Ashanti Kingdom will never wish to be associated with. Not with their treasured king.
Moments after the Otumfuo settled came the flagbearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party, Nana Akufo-Addo. The atmosphere changed. Campaign slogans were chanted and gestures for change enacted. The atmosphere was heated.
No sooner than president John Mahama arrive. The chants for change went higher. That provoked a separate chant of JM Toaso, or JM continue from a section of the mourners, albeit in the minority.
The contest of chants drowned the shrill hooting voices, all of which continued for well over an hour. The Asantehemaa memorial had been hijacked by a contest for political power, in a powerful traditional area, a united kingdom in Ghana, located at the centre of the country’s geographically.
Even in mourning and in the midst of the struggle for power in the December elections, the rich cultural identity of the Ashanti Kingdom could not be ignored.
There were drums of different shapes and sizes beaten with vigour by bare-chested men. The mourners danced. Drumming and dancing are a common feature in any Ghanaian social, cultural assembly.
Every sound of the drum communicated something and so too was every dance! The clenched fists, the poking of a finger, the raising of a shoulder, the movement of the feet all said something that only the initiated or persons closer to the throne would understand and interpret.
With few women and fewer tears, and many men, most of whom had folded their black cloths to their hip level exposing the different chest and shoulder frames, the memory of Asantehemaa was kept and remembered in a special, albeit with a tinge of political supremacy.