Wooden figure "Fante"


Ashanti or Fante people, Ghana, 20th century, private collection from Netherlands.

The Fante (called also Mfantsefo or Fanti) are an Akan people. The Fante subgroup live mainly in southern coast of Ghana between Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi. The Fante people are one of the Akan group, along with the "Asantefo" or Ashantis, the Akuapem, the Akyem, the Bono, the Baoule, Nzema and others. Originally "Fante" referred to "the half that left" (Fa-atsew) and initially settled at Mankessim. Oral tradition states that the Fante migrated from Techiman (or Tekyiman), in what is now the northwestern Asante region. During the 17th century Fante people established several autonomous kingdoms that later joined in the Fante confederacy.

The Fante have a dual lineage system. Matrilineal descent determines membership in clans and their localized segments. Every lineage has a ceremonial stool in which reside important ancestral spirits, whose worship is a prominent feature of Fante religion. Patrilineal descent governs the inheritance of spiritual attributes and also determines membership in the military organization called asafo. The word "Asafo" is derived from "sa" (meaning war) and "fo" (meaning people). Allegiance to the afaso takes precedence over that to the matrilineage.

The head of each Fante state is the paramount chief, chosen from the royal lineage. Under him are divisional chiefs and subchiefs. The chiefs and representatives of the asafo function as advisers to the paramount chief. The traditional religion is based on belief in a distant supreme being (onyame), a pantheon of gods and goddesses (abosom), minor deities (asuman) and the ever-present spirits of the ancestors (nsamanfo).

Ashanti (called also Ašanti, Asante) are a major ethnic group of the Akans. The Ashanti live in central Ghana in the rainforests of West Africa. Most of the Ashanti live in a region centered on the city of Kumasi, which was built by the first Ashanti king, Osei Tutu. The Ashanti people first appear in the historical record around the 13th century. By the 17th century, they had build themselves into great kingdom. The Ashanti rose to prominence through economic trade. They first became wealthy by participating in Africa's slave trade. The other trade that the Ashanti were deeply involved in was gold. To Europeans, Ghana was the place to go for African gold. Ashanti were well connected to the gold trade and they were also notable goldsmiths. By the early 19th century, Ashanti territory covered nearly all of present day Ghana, including the coast (in fact it was called "gold coast" by Europeans), where the Ashanti could trade directly with the British. In exchange for the guns, glass beads and other european goods, the Ashanti sold gold and slaves. Ashanti are a matrilineal society where line of descend is traced through the female. Ashanti people believes that every individual is made up of two elements, blood and flesh from mother and spirit from the father. The traditional religion is based on belief in a distant supreme being (onyame), a pantheon of gods and goddesses (abosom), minor deities (asuman) and the ever-present spirits of the ancestors (nsamanfo).

Artistically, the Fante parallel that of the Asante. Fertility, materinity and children are the most frequent themes in the wooden figures of Akan peoples. Other forms of art that are found among the Fante are colonial statues, shrine figures and, more well known, flags that are created by skilled individuals featuring mirrored images.

This meticulously carved, delicate maternity figure depicts a standing female figure. Good condition. Age-related wear and traces of handling over many years. Traces of black paint. Minor cracks, fractures and defects. Dirt, dust and soil. Size approx. 24,7cm x 4,6cm x 3,8cm (excluding modern stand).

Citations, references and sources:

The People of Ghana: Their Origins and Cultures, James Anquandah, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, New Series, No. 15, Articles from the Historical Society of Ghana's seminars and conferences, Published By Historical Society of Ghana, 2007-2012, pp. 1-25.

The Akan experience of god through the eyes of the Fante from Oguaa, Korsah LA, Kuwornu-Adjaottor JET, Art Human Open Acc J.2019;3(6):280-283. DOI: 10.15406/ahoaj.2019.03.00142

The Asante, Art & Life in Africa, University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art.

The Fante, Art & Life in Africa, University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art.

Asante Empire, Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Jan. 2020, britannica.com/place/Asante-empire.

The Fante, 101lasttribes.com