he Ashanti peoples of Ghana’s central rainforest area have a fascinating folklore
on a par with any elsewhere in the world. Any rainforest can take on sinister
aspects in the gloom under its dense canopy, and tales abound of strange inhabitants.
Ashanti lore has entities equivalent to fairies, ghosts, legendary beasts,
and, worst of all, the Nsansabonsam. And monster Nsansabonsam certainly is!
About three times the size of a man, with one vertical side beautiful and perfect
and the other rotten, corpselike, and corrupt.
Nobody is quite sure what it looks like but claims are made that it’s
feet point back to front so someone walking in the dark forest and seeing those
huge footprints thinks he is walking away from them when in fact he travels
ever closer to the monster. Unfortunately Christian influence has made skilled
local woodcarvers present the monster as the devil with horns and cloven hooves
pointing in reverse.
I have been lucky enough to obtain a marvellous lost wax bronze casting,
closer to the classical concepts but still with variants. My prize is endowed
with wings and instead of reversed feet it has large heel spurs which wipe
out its tracks completely (visible in the photo). Note corruption on left hand
side of head.
Nsansabonsam loves human prey but is also a very honest hunter. There
goes young Kofi into the forest gloom to check out Dad’s palm wine grove. Cautiously
and a bit scared he walks ever deeper, ahead lurks his giant nemesis anticipating
Kofi walks onwards in the gloom but his progress is impeded by a massive
bulk looming ahead. “Nsansabonsam!” he cringes with fear as the monster makes
its awful command, “Touch me!” Well versed in forest lore, Kofi knows the deal.
If he touches the corrupt rotten side of the monster he will be immediately
torn into pieces and devoured. If he touches the perfect side it’s jackpot
time! The monster is a fair player offering 50:50 odds.
The lad is aware that if he tries to run away he will be a goner. His
only hope is to extend his hand towards the indistinct figure and hope for
the best. In his case he is one of the winners as he touches the monster’s
Yeah, Kofi! Nsansabosam picks him up, places him on its massive shoulder
and carries him to its secret retreat in the depths of the forest. Here it
spends several apparent weeks instructing Kofi in forest lore, healing powers,
general magic, and how to locate gold and lost treasures. Look closely at the
bronze casting and you will see him seated on the monster’s knee protected
by its massive tail and with the serpent of knowledge in attendance coiled
around the tree of healing.
All this plus much other knowledge is given to the boy. A few weeks pass
by. Then the monster sets him on the track back to his village. At long last
Kofi is home. But what’s happened? People flee from him as though he is a stranger
and he can find none of his young companions.
He manages to convince people that he is in fact young Kofi but is told
that this boy went into the forest 20 years ago and never came back. He finally
locates his friends all grown to manhood and also his now aged parents. He
looks exactly as he had when he left all those years before. With his new learning
and skills Kofi becomes a great asset to his community. But deep in the forest
Nsansabonsam continues to lurk in search of victims and protégées. Lucky Kofi
was one of the latter but the bones of the not so fortunate remain scattered
around the deep forest.
one has interesting parallels with European lore, chap spending a
night in the fairy hill then finding he’s been gone for many years. Stravinsky’s
Tale”. Even Irvings Rip van Winkle. Also reminiscent to me of the Sphinx wandering
round asking its riddle then devouring all who could not answer. Collective
When Osei Tutu established the Ashanti Nation his fetish priest Akomfo Anokyi
performed several miracles. A wooden stool descended from
heaven embellished with gold ornaments, the legendary Golden Stool,
throne of the soul of Ashanti on which
not even the king could seat himself. And there was a leather bag sealed
with complex knotwork in which the Spirit of Ashanti was sealed. Undoing
would release said spirit and the nation would lose its power. A third
item is on a par with Arthurian and Germanic mythology. Anokye took
a battle sword and threw it point downwards into the ground where it
sunk in up to the hilt. He decreed that the nation would prevail until
this was withdrawn. An ignorant British Governor General in the early
20th century demanded the subdued Ashanti chiefs bring The Golden
Stool for him to sit on. A new uprising was the end result of that. The leather bag can be seen in the Kumasi Cultural Centre. As for
the sword, there is a sturdy iron rod protruding from the ground
this was inserted. The Americans had an air base near Kumasi and
they did two seriously
First off, they landed a metal seaplane on nearby Lake Bosumtwi. Placing
any metal item in the sacred lake of Ashanti is taboo. Even fish hooks
are made of wood or bone. Locals were affronted. Under old Ashanti laws
merely swearing by Lake Bosumtwi had the swearer decapitated. For
an encore they tried digging up the sacred sword with a mechanical
shovel. Major rioting stopped this stupidity
and locals will inform you that as the shovel dug deeper so sank the
sword legend may be a later addition based on the Arthurian tale. ¿Quien