Onipa ye de – solidarity among Akan
By Ato Bob*
In the evening of Saturday 18th July a festive occasion took place in a hall called Doelarie at the Western outskirts (Overschie) of Rotterdam. The event was a durbar in honour of Nana Akyeneba V Ghanaian Queen and Queen-mother.
The word durbar may not be familiar to all readers of this column.
Durbar is a Hindi-Urdu word, common in all North Indian languages and many other South Asian languages. It was the term used for the place where Indian Kings and other rulers had their formal and informal meetings, in European context, equivalent to a Kings Court.
In Northern Nigeria annual Durbar festivals take place in several major cities, coinciding with Muslim festivals like Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Durbar in Hausa was introduced by Sarki Muhammadu Rumfa of Kano in the late 14th century, as a way of demonstrating military power and skills before going to war.
In Ghana Durbars are regular features commonly taking place during regional festivals in the various traditional areas, but also when there is a public meeting on certain topic or campaign regarding health, education, agriculture or particular information.
Chieftaincy in Ghana
Chieftaincy is one of the major, important traditional institutions in contemporary Ghana, symbolizing socio-political and sacred power vested in Chiefs, Queen-mothers and Priests in many parts of Ghana. It was enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana’s independence in 1957 as well as ‘guaranteed’ in the 1992 Constitution.
Chiefs are the custodians of culture and tradition, which they visibly proudly covet and protect.
This is also made clear by the annual regional ethnic based festivals like Aboakyir – Deer hunting, Bakatue – fish harvesting, Fetu Afahye -harvest commemorating first contact with whites, Homowo – harvest/thanksgiving, Odwira – harvest/thanksgiving, Damba – traditional display, Hogbetsotso – migration, Fiok – War festival, Adae – festival of purifying of the Ashanti’s’ ancestral stools.
Nana Akyeneba V enstooled in Ghana as Queen Mother and Queen
Her Royal Highness Nana Akyeneba V was ‘enstooled’ on 22nd September 2011. The term ‘enstooled’ means installed, confirmed in the traditional position and derives from the stool on which the Queen Mother or Chief is placed during the ceremony.
Given the title Nana Akyeneba V, she became the Obaahemaa (Queen-mother) of Egyaa Division and Amuhemaa (Queen) of Anomabo Traditional Area. These places are found along the South Eastern coast of Ghana, a 114km from the Capital Accra.
Nana Akyeneba V is known in private life as Olivia Poku, originally of Ghanaian descent and has been living in the Netherlands for almost twenty years, raising two daughters and a son, who are now in their teens. Her ascension to a position as traditional ruler was reported in ‘The Herald’, the news magazine of the Scots International Church Rotterdam where she is a member, like this columnist. See: http://www.scotsintchurch.com/herald/herald201111.pdf
The Durbar in Rotterdam
The enstoolment of Nana Akyeneba was not commonly known to Ghanaians living in the Netherlands. Therefore friends, well-wishers, ‘subjects’ (people from her area in Ghana) and others found in necessary to organize a durbar in her honour. The formal responsibility for the durbar fell to two Ghanaian community organizations: Ghanaman Rotterdam and the Seamen Association of Ghanaians in Europe, both based in Rotterdam. The event duly took place on Saturday evening 18th June at the hall called Doelarie at the outskirts of Rotterdam Overschie. This venue offered a large hall with a stage and a dance floor and capacity to seat up to 300 people.
Always ready for a community event, Ghanaians had come from the Netherlands and also from neighbouring countries and some even further away like from the U.S. Dressed mostly in famous Ghanaian Kente cloth or other traditional dresses, myself included of course, they filled the hall to above the capacity and became a sight to behold!
A row of tables lined up for the dignitaries like Chiefs and Queen-mothers, as well as representatives of Ghanaian organizations in The Netherlands. The general public, almost exclusively Ghanaian or other African, with just a few obronies as this writer, sat in rows.
A stage with a few seats among which traditional stools awaited the royal guest of honour and those accompanying her.
As usual at African events like these, it took quite some time, a few hours, for people to arrive in numbers and to fill the hall. Meeting each other, socializing and enjoying the music whiled away the time.
Then suddenly there was the supreme moment, Nana Akyeneba V entered with her entourage, splendidly dressed in Kente cloth, a Fante Tekua hairstyle and bedecked with various gold ornaments like rings and strings of beads.
A huge umbrella was whirling above her head held by an impromptu traditional umbrella – bearer. Around her were a group of the close supporters among which another royalty sheltered by another whirling umbrella. Among cheers from dignitaries and general public alike, who raised their right hand with the first two fingers making a swearing or allegiance sign, Nana Akyeneba V with her group moved around the room. She had a happy smile on her face visibly bearing her royal position with dignity and subdued pride.
This moving around in a circle is the way of the King, Paramount Chief, Queen or Queen-mother to welcome the guests and all those present at the Durbar. Usually it is then the turn of the official guests or dignitaries, VIP’s to make the round greet their host with a wave of the hand or allegiance swearing sign.
After completing her round, Nana Akyeneba V and her entourage were directed to the stage, where they sat down on the stools and seats and were promptly swamped by people taking photographs and videos.
It was then the turn of ‘Uncle’ Dave Dziworshie, a senior Ghanaian in Rotterdam, to welcome all and officially open the Durbar. This was followed by a speech by Olivia Poku’s uncle relating how she was chosen to become Queen and Queen-mother. A display of a traditional female dancer, thrilled and amused all, while distribution of drinks was going on.
The evening continued with music and dancing, while popular Ghanaian Highlife made everyone throng the dance floor.
Delegations and groups represented:
Present at the durbar, apart from the organizing,
Ghanaian Seamen and Ghanaman Rotterdam were:
Mfantiman of The Hague;
Mfantiman of Amsterdam;
Mfantiman of Belgium;
Ghana Heritage of Amsterdam.
Chief and Queens present were:
Nana Akyeneba V, Queen of Egyaa 1, 2 & 3 Ghana;
Nana Adowa Pinamang Agoroyesumhemaa, Ghana;
Nana Ama Serwa Bonsu, Agyedabi-Awiaa Nkosuhemaa, Ghana;
Nana Akosua Kusiwaa, Asantefohemaa, Netherlands;
Nana Atwima Mansa, Gyaasehemaa, Netherlands;
Nana Ago Prah, Obaapanin, Amsterdam;
Nana Pinamang, Namponghemaa, Netherlands;
Nana Ama Amanfo, Abakomahemaa, Netherlands;
Nana Kwadjo Nti I, Krontihene of Samproso;
Judging by the buzzing social media, I was not only one that reported on this Durbar in honour of Nana Akyeneba V. See the 374 photos on:
In my humble opinion, as I know Nana Akyeneba V and as Olivia Poku, she deserves it!
*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org