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Ashanti Okyeame

Page history last edited by Barbara Allen 15 years, 11 months ago


The Ashanti Okyeame

An okyeame is normally called a "linguist" in English, but an okyeame is much more than a linguist. Communication with the Ashanti king or with chiefs and fetish priests will go through an okyeame. The current Ashanti king has thirteen okyeame.  Most paramount chiefs have seven and eight. An okyeame must come up with the words, proverb, saying, or metaphor that will most accurately express what the chief is saying or what is being said to the chief. This means that an okyeame must not only be a good speaker but must also know as much or more about the social and political system as the chief he serves. As a symbol of his authority to speak for the chief, the okyeame carries a staff, an okyeame poma. The finial on top of the okyeame poma normally represents an Ashanti proverb or saying.


The following pictures of okyeama poma came from: 


African Ceremonies / Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher; Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , c 1999

Volume 1, p. 373-375



See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.












When the kite’s away, the hawk sits on its eggs.

In  the kings absence the throne is always guarded by his kin.










The chief holds the key to the treasury.











The boy does not know the lion.

Naivete is dangerous.










When you climb a good tree, you will get a push.

When you work for a good cause, you will get support. 









No one buys a cock to let it crow in another man's town.










One head cannot make a council.

Three heads are better than one.










The porcupine fights from all angles.

A symbol of the Ashanti kingdom.










Only the elephant can uproot a tree.

The chief dominates his kingdom.









The power of the eagle shows not only in the air, but on land.









The Asantehene is the rainbow that encircles everyone.









If one man alone scrapes bark, it falls.

Cooperation leads to success.









Eat the pineapple only when it is ripe.

Evervthing in its own good time.









The animal's head is never lost in a soup.

No one of significance is ever overlooked.










No matter how fat the frog grows. it can never surpass the mudfish.

A chief rules despite the power of his peers.








Food is for the man who owns it, not for the hungry man.

Work before enjoyment.









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