The Story of Wenchi
Know the origin of towns
This paper examines the origin, legend of the people and its impact on the earlier history of the Wenchi kingdom, not with polemic intent, but rather to assess the contemporary significance of the myths and legends of Wenchi without their being reinterpreted and reconstructed .
There is no need to recast and deprive them of their esoterism, by a strange coincidence, known to students of Ghanaian history. The myths and legends of Asumegya, Juaben, Kokofu and Nsuta which assert that their ancestors “came out from the ground at Santemanso” have been recorded and preserved for posterity.
Thus according to Wenchi legend of origin, their founding fathers “came out from a hole in the ground at a place called Bonaso near the source of Ayaso Stream.” The leader, Nana Tabiriku Anye Amaniampon of the Asene clan, was accompanied by her sister, Asaseba Odinse and a large retinue.
Another version of the tradition refers to the hole as Asomanini, claiming that Bonoso (ie. ‘above the hole) is the exact site a little off the mysterious hole. The existence of ancient mounds surrounding the hole and the oral traditions which relates that brass bowls were cleansed in the Ayasu Stream (Ayasu lit. means ‘brass water’ provides fairly convincing proof that there was a settlement near the hole. The hole itself is said to have several galleries leading to various directions which looked like ancient goldmine or a place of refuge in time of war. This ancient settlement, now revered as cradle of the people of the Wenchi must have attained a high level of material culture. This can be seen in the quality of the State paraphernalia, the molten metal, the brass and silver products, the woven kente cloth, the terra cottas (brownish and glazed pottery), the artistic excellence which is now widely acclaimed by experts.
Because the land was uninhibited at the time of occupation, they assumed the name YEFIRI, meaning’ “we are the aborigines‘. And the legend that the animal which made the burrow from which they emerged is known as ‘wankyee’ (an animal like a pig hence the name WANKYI).
There is another local tradition which relates that the Takyimanhene, who claimed to have occupied the land earlier instructed this branch of Asene clan members to “settle behind him” hence the expression ‘waw m’akyi became corrupted into Wankyi (Anglicized Wenchi).
Be that as it may, the traditional evidence indicated that the Wenchi had moved only a short distance from Bonoso to a new settlement called Ahwene koko, about 32 kilometres away from the mysterious hole. The move to Ahwene Koko, was motivated by nana Tabiri Anye Amaniampon and the Queen mother , Asaseba Odinse. Ahwene Koko simply means ‘red beads’ derived from the precious Red Bead Stool owned by the Queen mother, while that of the male Stool was made of solid gold.
Geographically, Ahwene Koko was placed to tap both the resources of the forest belt and the savannah region with kola and alluvial gold deposits around it. It grew to become a prosperous a city-state which consisted of 177 wards- some of which were Adwadie (the market place), Adwabirem (place of assembly), Ahemfie (the palace)” Atomfoo (the blacksmith quarters). Etc.
On the Dutch Map drawn 25th December, 1629, Ahwene Koko was depicted as “being rich in gold”, and that it had artistically beautiful cloth which the inhabitants sell to the Arcany…..”
After they had settled down at Ahwene Koko, two hunters, one from Ahwene koko and other from Dua-Yaw- Nkwanta, met on the upper stream of the Tano River which eventually became the natural boundary between them.
The Queen mother and her brother ruled the city state fo ar along time, and under them Ahwene koko reached the height of prosperity. She succeeded by her daughter, Atoah Yaah, and the chief by his nephew, Anye Amaniampon.
The king of Asante was busy trying to find a casus belli in order to launch his full scale military operation at Dormaa in Abesim. However, the Abesim campaign on their disguised fact finding mission, provided the cause for Asante to attack and erase Ahwene Koko to the ground on their way to Abesim.
Butler’ the Dutch factor at Axim in 1715 noted that ‘a few years ago the Zay had sent an army of 3000 men against an inland country called Affidie Coco……. (Quotation drawn from NBKG 82. From sub-factor van Naerssen to Butler, February, 1715.
The Asante followed the war into Aowin in 1715 because some of their soldiers escaped with a large booty into Aowin. In ‘A Revised Chronology of Ashanti Kings in the 18th Century’, the Zay (Osei) died in 1712 – J.A.H. I, 1960, p.84-88 see for example, K.Y Daaku. “A Note on the Fall of Ahwene Koko and its significance in Asante History” in GNQ. No. 10 1968 p.42.
Although the attack, according to the Asante was by chance, the Wenchi traditions aver that it was calculated to capture their Queen mother and her maid servant were at the river side for the usual laundry and the inhabitants were taken unawares. Even though the Asante could not capture the precious Stool, the Wenchi themselves have since not been able to retrieve it from the confluence of Tano and Tain rivers near the modern town of Bosomso(Kanianka) where it was buried.
Ahwene Koko was ransacked of all that was worth anything. The captives and the booty were carried to Kumase, many inhabitants fled to Nkwawie, Abrafo, Abuakwa near Kumase, Sehwi, Dadeaso near Enchi, Suaen in Wassaw, Nkroful and Nzima area.
The day of invasion, Thursday, was enshrined in the national oath, ‘Kru- Yaw- a-gya-tua-ano (ie ‘Thursday with fire’).
The rest of the people settled in scatterd settlements near the ruins of Ahwne Koko. And today , the town of Bosomso close to the place where the precious Stool was secretly buried, has since remained the ceremonial ground where all Wenchi chiefs go to be enstooled after all three-year probation period.
On the return of the Queenmother, Nana Atoah Yaah from captivity in Kumase, the Wenchi established themselves with a feeling of renewed safety.
The Spectator Page: 31 Saturday, June 18, 2011