All you need to know about the late Asantehemaa


    A true offspring of the Royal Lineage of the Oyoko Clan of Kumasi, Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II, was born in 1905 in Kumasi to Nana Yaa Birago (Nana Yaa Bakani), the daughter of Nana Akua Afriyie (Akua Dehyeɛ), whose mother was Nana Afia Kobi I, Asantehemaa from 1857 to 1880, after whom she was named. Nana Yaa Birago’s sister was Nana Akosua Oheneafrɛwo, who gave birth to Nana Ama Sɛɛwaa Nyarko (the 12thAsantehemaa) and Nana Akua Akyaa Mansa, whose son was Otumfuo Opoku Ware II (the 15thAsantehene).

    The father of Nana Afia was Oheneba Kwadwo Afodoɔ I. He was Asamponghene who reigned from 1901 to 1973. He hailed from Achiase and was a son to Otumfuo Mensa Bonsu, Asantehene from 1874 to 1883.

    Nana Akua Afriyie (Akua Dehyeɛ) had an older sister, Nana Yaa Akyaa, from the same mother, Nana Afia Kobi I, Asantehemaa, who also gave birth to Nana Akua Abakoma, Nana Konadu Yiadom, 11th Asantehemaa, 1917-1944, Otumfuo Agyeman Prempeh I and others. Nana Akua Abakoma also gave birth to Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, Nana Akosua Banieh and others.

    Nana Afia was born in a small room on a bright morning without the traditional birth attendant. Her birth was heralded by an unusual incident of cocks jumping up and down with outstretched wings and continuous crowing. A traditional priest blessing her foretold that she would attain an unusual longevity.

    The birth of Nana Afia took place nine years after the exile of Otumfuo Agyeman Prempeh I, alias Nana Kwaku Duah III, by the British, first to Elmina, then to Freetown, and eventually in 1900 to the Seychelles Islands.

    The exiling of the King and other Royals resulted in the Oyoko Royals being scattered all over the Kingdom. This eventually affected Nana Afia, her mother, and her siblings. They stayed at Mmada in a shrine-house until King Prempeh I returned to Kumasi in 1924. They then went first to stay at the Akwamuhene’s Palace at Asafo and then later to the Manhyia Palace, till Nana Afia moved to live with a stool wife of the Asantehene called Oheneyere Nana Afia Fookuo.

    With a smooth dark complexion, Nana Afia grew beautifully and physically strong. She manifested virtues of humility, submission and hard work. In line with the prevailing climate that Royals should not go to school, she did not have the privilege of a classroom education, but was fully educated in matters of behavior, culture, hygiene, self-help, and so on. Her speciality was cooking various Asante dishes, such as siweɛ, ɛtɔ, adibia-nkyene-wom, apapransa, mfɔho, and bɔsoa. These were mouthwatering starters that she served her guests before they were invited to the main meal.

    She was ushered into womanhood through the performance of the bragorɔ ceremony when she reached the age of puberty.

    Even at that time, Nana believed in cleanliness of the body and clothing and surroundings as a veritable mark of a true cultured person. These traits singled her out as an Asante woman throughout her 111 years on earth.

    Through her first marriage to Opanin Kofi Fofie of Besease, near Atimatim in the Kwabre District of Ashanti, she was blessed with three children – Nana Ama Konadu (popularly called Nana Panin, still alive, late Barima Kwabena Poku, and late Nana Ama Sɛɛwaa (alias Nana Ketewa or Eno Ama).

    One of quite a few remarkable incidents in the life of Nana Afia was that it took the intervention of a traditional priest to make her deliver Nana Ama Konadu safely and easily.

    Celebration of second marriage
    Her second marriage was with Ohenenana Kwame Boakye Dankwa who hailed from Kentinkyiren in the Atwima Kwanwoma District of Asante. Ohenenana Boakye Dankwa succeeded his father, Nana Kwaku Duah (Agari) as Brahyiahene, in charge of Otumfuo’s gun carriers and was also the grandson of Nana Kwaku Duah I, Asantehene from 1834-1867. The marriage which produced two sons, Barima Akwasi Prempeh of blessed memory and Barima Kwaku Duah (the present Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II), had the full support of Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, her brother. It is said that after the birth of Barima Akwasi Prempeh, Nana Afia was contemplating to seek divorce but Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II advised against it. Nana Afia listened to her brother and conceived Barima Kwaku Duah.

    The day Nana Afia called on her brother to present Barima Kwaku Duah, the child wet Otumfuo’s cloth, whereupon Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II tapped the child’s head three times whilst saying ‘Kra tumi, Kra tumi, Kra tumi, wo aba a tena ase’, literally meaning ‘Powerful soul, powerful soul, powerful soul, I wish you long life’ and prophesying that this young boy would be great one day, specifically that one day he would sit on ‘Banwoma so’.

    Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II cherished her relationships with her paternal relations, especially Oheneba Mensa Bonsu, Hiahene, who took special care of Barima Kwaku Duah, the last child of Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II (now Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene) and trained him, on the instructions of Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II to be capable of excelling in most standards of human life during his youth.

    Others were:
    Late Eno Ama Sɛɛwaa, sister of Oheneba Mensa Bonsu (Hiahene) and paternal sister of Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem.

    Late Oheneba Osei Bonsu, her nephew and Managing Director, Timber and Transport Company Limited.

    Nana Akua Ampem-Fa of Kokoben in the Atwima Nwabiagya District.

    Late Nana Krapa-Enam of Atwima Boko.

    Nana Ama Agyeman, Hiawuhemaa.

    She also had inumerable companions who included:

    Late Nana Yaa Amponsah of Oheneba Atipinhene’s Palace – Kumasi.

    Late Nana Akua Mansa of Nsuta-Asante.

    Late Nana Ama Akyemponmaa I, Ahenenanahemaa of Sika Dwa.

    Late Nana Ama Dapaa, Apagyahemaa.

    Nana was such a model of sterling traditional, cultural, moral, social and religious character traits that when the Asantehemaa, Nana Ama Sɛɛwaa Nyarko II, died, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II had no hesitation whatsoever in selecting her as the 13thAsantehemaa in 1977, at the age of 72.

    Rare qualities
    Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II exhibited rare qualities of humanity, friendship, love, and justice as a human being. She was a woman who loved her children exceedingly well but never excluded other members of the royal family and outside the royal family from her kindness as the Mother of the Asantes.

    Biologically, she was the mother of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II whom she judiciously selected as King of Asante, as it was her duty, when Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, who had made her Asantehemaa, passed away.

    As Asantehemaa, she saw to it that neither Otumfuo Opoku Ware II nor Otumfuo Osei Tutu II discriminated in their munificence to members of the royal family and others. If it is the duty of a natural mother to advise her son who is in a big position of responsibility, it is even more the case for Nana Hemaa to advise the King as the cultural mother. This duty Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II performed to an extraordinary degree. She encouraged her sons, supported them in the good things they did, advised them on the right path, and bore their sorrows and joys, their triumphs and frustrations. She brought her tremendous wealth of wisdom to bear on the traditional rule of her sons, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II and Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. There is no doubt that because Otumfuo Osei Tutu II followed the wise counsel of a devoted mother in the double sense of biological birth and cultural exigency, it became possible, after his enstoolment as King of Asante, to become known as “King Solomon.”

    Special Day
    Through the urging of Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II, a special day was set aside, during the 15th Anniversary Celebration of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s enstoolment, for Ahemaa of Asante. But interesting enough, Ahemaa from Denkyira (Central Region), Akyem (Eastern Region) and the Volta Region also came, which helped to give the occasion a national character.

    Nana Hemaa was the Life Patron of Ghana Women Initiative Foundation established by Dr. Esther Ocloo and others. The functions of the Foundation were to encourage education of girls, the empowerment of women, inculcation of good traditional and moral values for women etc.

    Even though she was of royal blood, Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II was never boastful. She pointed out what was wrong and what was right to those concerned.
    Right from her infancy, she never dressed up immodestly, and since her enstoolment, she was renowned for her exemplary hard work and industriousness.

    It should be recalled that before she became Asantehemaa, Nana Afia had passbooks with UAC, CFAO, UTC, with which she engaged in the sale of cloth and other trading activities. She also dealt in the sale of lumber which was supplied by her nephew, Oheneba Osei Bonsu of T.A.T. fame.

    As a young girl, she served ungrudgingly her senior relatives. These included her predecessor, Nana Amma Sɛɛwaa Nyarko. In her early years, a prophetic statement had been made that she and her son would in the future hold responsible positions in society.

    Although Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II was a woman of culture to the core, she was also a convinced Christian. At the age of 22, she was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican faith at St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church in Kumasi. This was in 1927, three years after the return of King Agyeman Prempeh I from the Seychelles Islands in 1924.
    The name given her, Mary Afful, was a corrupted form of Afodoɔ, her father’s name. She enrolled in the Good Shepherd Society of the Church and held on to her faith. Until her death, she was a communicant. The Anglican Clergy of St. Cyprian’s Cathedral frequently said Mass for her and her son at Manhyia Palace.

    Her second husband, being a Catholic, asked that her two children to be baptized in the Catholic Church, and it happened that it was the present Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Kumasi, the Most Reverend Peter Kwasi Sarpong, who baptized Barima Kwaku Duah, the present Asantehene.

    Kumasiman, Asanteman and Ghana hail you, Nana Afia Kobi Sɛɛwaa Ampem II, as an embodiment of what is best in Ghanaian womanhood. You had a tremendous sense of discipline.

    You would not succumb to political pressure to influence your choice of the King of Asante. You were blessed with the old age of 111, during which you never completely lost any of your senses – taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch.

    You had a colossal memory and sharp mind which, right up to your passing away, did not diminish. You were able to remember people, places, events and occurrences, and you remembered them with amazing ease and in incredible minute detail.

    God, your Creator, even while you were still alive, had shown satisfaction in your performance as Ohemaa. Go to your Mother Mary. She will conduct you to her Son, and her Son will introduce you to your great ancestors of Oyoko at Asamando!