Cultures & Traditions

Sword bearers

The increasing accessibility of European firearms reduced the need for Asante swords to function as weapons. State swords are second only to state stools in terms of their importance. The largest state sword is an Mponponsuo (responsibility) sword. During his inauguration, the Asantehene (king) swears on the Mponponuso that he will serve and protect the Golden Stool.

State swords are adorned with large gold castings, the largest and most spectacular products of a goldsmith’s art. Swords with oversized ornaments are carried in processions, displayed when the ruler held court, or propped against the bed of a deceased chief. Depending on the scale and placement of the casting, the swords cannot be worn on the hip; they must be carried by the blade. The ornament’s imagery refers to Asante proverbs, historical events, or European royal emblems.

Sword bearers wear distinctive headdresses that range from close-fitting kidney-shaped skullcaps made of antelope skin with gold ornaments, to more spectacular helmets with earflaps adorned with gold amulets and feathers.

Excerpt from

  • Roslyn Walker, The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana, Label text, 2018.

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