A unique and authentic collection of 13 buildings situated in ten locations
The Asante traditional buildings are a unique representation of West African architectural heritage. These are not just buildings. These buildings stand as a testimony, a spiritual heritage to the rich cultural and historical legacy of the Asante people. With their distinct design and construction techniques, these buildings have garnered global recognition and are on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1980.
The Asante Traditional Buildings is a unique and authentic collection of 13 buildings (Abirim, Asawase, Asenemaso, Bodwease, Ejisu Besease, Adarko Jachie, Edwenase, Kentinkrono, Patakro and Saaman) in ten locations. These beautifully decorated buildings are probably the last authentic architectural remains from the prosperous Asante Empire times. The Empire reached its golden age in the 18th century. Sadly, during the British raids in the 19th century, most of the shrines got destroyed.
Most of the buildings are on the north and the east of Kumasi, as well as in the central south areas of Ghana. Each building is a shrine. Every shrine is a spiritual home or ‘the home of gods and men’ dedicated to one of the minor deities (‘Abosom’) of Asante. The deity would mediate between the mortal and the supreme God - ‘Nyame’.
Brief History of Asante Traditional Buildings
The Asante Kingdom, founded in the 17th century, was a powerful West African state. The architectural style of the Asante traditional buildings has evolved during this time, reflecting the kingdom’s social hierarchy and its connection with the spiritual realm.
The construction of these buildings was based purely on traditional techniques passed down through generations. Built primarily using timber and earth materials, these structures withstood the region’s tropical climate while embodying the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Asante people.
Exploring Asante Traditional Buildings or Why Visit Asante Traditional Buildings
The Asante traditional buildings hold immense cultural, historical, and architectural value. They symbolise the Asante people’s strong connection to their ancestral roots and serve as an important reminder of their past. The buildings also showcase the ingenuity and skill of Asante artisans, who utilised local materials and techniques to create these architectural masterpieces.
These buildings are tangible expressions of the Asante people’s spirituality and culture. The intricate symbols and motifs adorning the walls represent various aspects of the Asante belief system, providing insights into their cultural practices and worldviews.
Key Features of Asante Traditional Buildings
1. Earth and Timber Construction
The primary materials used in constructing Asante traditional buildings are earth and timber. Builders used sun-dried mud bricks to make the walls, and they supported the roof with a wooden framework that they covered with thatch. This choice of materials is rather practical and sustainable. Mud bricks provide insulation against heat, they are easily accessible and eco-friendly. However, it requires constant maintenance, as the climate is boiling and humid.
2. Courtyard Layout
The layout of Asante traditional buildings typically features a central courtyard, surrounded by various rooms and chambers. The layout and design is not an accident; it promotes natural ventilation, allowing air to circulate freely and keeping the interiors cool.
3. Decorative Wall Relief and decorations
One of the most striking features of Asante traditional buildings is the decorative wall relief. These intricate designs are carved or moulded into the mud walls, depicting various geometric patterns, animals, and human figures. These motifs symbolise spiritual concepts, proverbs, and historical events, serving both aesthetic and educational purposes.
4. Akan-Style Roofs
The roofs of Asante traditional buildings are characterised by their steep, double-pitched design, known as the Akan-style roof. This unique roof shape aids in rainwater drainage and provides additional ventilation, enhancing the building’s resilience to the tropical climate.
Conservation and Restoration Efforts of Asante Traditional Buildings
Asante traditional buildings face various threats, like climate change, urbanisation, and the lack of maintenance. Local and international organisations have collaborated to ensure the long-term preservation of these buildings, which are invaluable to the cultural heritage of the Asante people.
UNESCO World Heritage Status
In 1980, a selection of Asante traditional buildings was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List , raising global awareness of their cultural and historical importance. This prestigious recognition has led to increased funding and technical support for the conservation and restoration of these buildings.
Local Community Involvement
The active involvement of local communities is essential for the successful preservation of Asante traditional buildings. Through education, training, and employment opportunities, the communities are empowered to maintain and protect their cultural heritage. This grassroots approach ensures that the conservation efforts are sustainable and have a long-lasting impact.
Collaboration with local and international experts
Various local and international organisations have been working together and have made significant progress in the conservation and restoration of these buildings over the years. However, ongoing efforts are still required to address certain challenges.
The conservation and restoration of these buildings can be costly, and securing adequate funding remains a significant challenge. The obvious and sometimes extreme weather changes pose a threat to these buildings. Working together, stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, local communities, and experts, can ensure that the Asante traditional buildings continue to stand as proud reminders of the region’s vibrant past and inspire future generations. Conservation and restoration projects for Asante traditional buildings involve collaboration with experts from various fields, such as architecture, archaeology, and engineering. By using their experience, more innovative solutions can be developed to address the challenges, ensuring that their historical authenticity is maintained.
While visiting Asante Traditional Buildings, visitors should also explore other nearby attractions:
Akosombo Dam is an excellent place to visit and is about 2 hours away from Kumasi. This hydroelectric dam is on the Volta River and generates electricity for Ghana and other West African countries.
The Boti Falls is also worth visiting. It is about an hour’s drive from Kumasi. Boti Falls is a twin waterfall located in the Eastern Region of Ghana. It is a popular destination known for its scenic beauty and serene atmosphere.
For those interested in hiking, the Tafi-Atome Monkey Sanctuary and the Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary are the places to visit. Visitors can hike through the forest and see the monkeys in their natural habitat and see monkeys up close.
Planning Your Trip: Tips and Advice for Visiting Asante Traditional Buildings
For the local community, Asante Traditional Buildings are sacred. Some even have a resident priest. People still widely practise the traditional religion in these shrines. Mostly, it takes the form of locals seeking advice or consulting their deities before taking important decisions or before making important moves in their lives. The building in Besease is the only one that is officially open to the public and serves as a museum. None of the others are officially open to the public. Please be respectful to locals and do not invade their privacy and space!