Briefly discussed as background to the Ashanti Region, among others, are the history, location and physical features, modern political and traditional administration, cultural and social structure, religion, tourist attractions, demographic characteristics and the major economic activities.
The Ashanti Region is centrally located in the middle belt of Ghana. It lies between longitudes 0.15W and 2.25W, and latitudes 5.50N and 7.46N. The region shares boundaries with four of the ten political regions, Brong-Ahafo in the north, Eastern region in the east, Central region in the south and Western region in the South west.
The region occupies a total land area of 24,389 square kilometres representing 10.2 per cent of the total land area of Ghana. It is the third largest region after Northern (70,384 sq. kms) and Brong Ahafo (39,557 sq. kms) regions.
The region has a population density of 148.1 persons per square kilometre, the third after Greater Accra and Central Regions. More than half of the region lies within the wet, semi-equatorial forest zone.
Due to human activities and bushfires, the forest vegetation of parts of the region, particularly the north-eastern part, has been reduced to savanna. The region has an average annual rainfall of 1270mm and two rainy seasons. The major rainy season starts in March, with a major pick in May. There is a slight dip in July and a pick in August, tapering off in November. December to February is dry, hot, and dusty.
The average daily temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius. Much of the region is situated between 150 and 300 metres above sea level. The region is endowed with a spectacular geography-lakes, scarps, forest reserves, waterfalls, national parks, birds and wildlife sanctuaries.
Notable among them are the Owabi Arboretum and Bomgobiri wildlife sanctuaries. The region is drained by Lake Bosomtwe, the largest natural lake in the country, and Rivers Offin, Prah, Afram and Owabi. There are other smaller rivers and streams which serve as sources of drinking water for residents of some localities in the region.
The Asante (Ashantis) constitute the largest of the various subgroups of the Akan, who trace their origins partly to Bono-Manso and Techiman, in present-day Brong Ahafo Region. They constitute 14.8 per cent of all Ghanaians by birth, and 30.1 per cent of the total Akan population of 8,562,748 in the country. Various oral traditions have it that the Ashantis migrated from various places through Bono-Manso/Takyiman (Techiman) to present day Ashanti Region.
As a united people, they started with a nucleus of the Oyoko clan around Asantemanso. After several years of subjugation by other empires, such as the Akwamu and the Denkyira, Asante eventually grew to be a very powerful empire founded by King Osei-Tutu I (1695-1717), after defeating the Denkyira King Ntim Gyakari during the battle of Feyiase (Buah, 1998).
Ironically, King Osei Tutu I had spent his childhood days in the court of the Denkyira King, according to custom, and had escaped from there to Akwamu where he met his lifelong friend and spiritual mentor, the legendary Okomfo Anokye.
It is believed that it was through Okomfo Anokye’s extraordinary supernatural powers that King Osei Tutu founded the Ashanti Empire; as he is said to have commanded the Golden Stool to fall from “the heavens”, the stool which, to this day, serves as the symbol of the spirit, unity and strength of the Ashantis.
At the height of its glory, the influence and culture of the Asante Kingdom stretched beyond the borders of the present day Ghana. The Ashanti were able to preserve what was best in Akan culture, including the use of gold dust as currency and gold weights as a measure, a system actually originated by the great Bono (Brong) King Akumfi Ameyaw I (1328-1363) (Buah, 1998).
The Asante fought many successful wars against the Denkyira and their allies including the Wassa, the British, the Fante, and even the Bonos (Brongs). Indeed it was the Ashanti King Opoku Ware I who defeated the Bonos in 1723 and destroyed Bono-Manso, forcing the Bono Empire to move its capital from Manso to present day Techiman. The Ashanti Empire eventually collapsed with the defeat and exile of King Prempeh I, first to El-Mina Castle and eventually to the Seychelles.
Not even the last stalwart stand by the great warrior Queen Yaa Asantewaa could revive the fame, fortune and power of Ashanti. However, the culture, kinship and social structure of Ashanti, like many of the other Akan groups, have been preserved and maintained to the present day, and underlines the cultural heritage, not only of the Asante, but of the entire Akan ethnic group. The present Asanti King (Asantehene) Osei Tutu II, is a direct matrilineal descendant of Osei Tutu I.