Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Royal Experience at the Kumasi Grand Durbar in Ghana


Tales of African kings and queens are popular with the African American diaspora. It's an important way to acknowledge and reclaim our history but it never occurred to me that I would one day witness this living history. When I slowly moved through the crowds and colorful revelry of Ghana's historic Grand Durbar in Kumasi, I found myself surrounded by Asante and Akyem royalty.


A Grand Durbar is a celebration of when kings and high officials come together for different occasions.  This one marked the 75th anniversary of the passing of Okeyehene Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, a highly influential traditional ruler who died in 1943. I was dazzled by the procession of over 100 royals and their courts, complete with golden chairs, staffs and embroidered umbrellas.


I learned that this was a particularly historic event because the Asante and Akyem clans had not come together in over 200 years. Before the two kings arrived to be carried through the adoring crowds, the Asantehene ruler of the Asante Kingdom, arrived in a Rolls Royce Phantom and the Okyeman, ruler of the Akyem Kingdom, waited for him seated on a glistening golden throne. It was a spectacle that I was amazed to see.


Each procession featured  royals wearing luxurious, hand-woven Kente cloth, with each pattern and color symbolizing different meanings.


Ghanaian royal families are matrilineal, and it's the Queen Mother who nominates a new chief, so I was excited to watch a procession of royal women stroll regally through the mobs of people. There are dozens of protocols and traditions that took place during the durbar, like shooting off shotguns to ward off negative spirits, which you will hear in my video below. Attending this Grand Durbar was one of the most unforgettable and significant experiences I've ever had during my travels. Have you ever had an unforgettable experience while traveling?


Photos by R. Cummings-Yeates

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