King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences

West Africa and the Gold Coast

By Linda Gyamfi, Events Officer, External Relations Team

Map of the Ashantee regionMap of the Ashantee regionI really enjoyed reading about and discovering the British experience of the Gold Coast in the books Voyage to Africa and the Mission from Cape Coast to Ashantee.

I was very impressed by the level of detail William Hutton provided in his account of the cultural practices, traditional ceremonies and the native names (although written in a British version). I was also fascinated by the last chapter of his book, which contains the British translation of Fante words - Fante being a dialect of the Akan language.

Thomas Bowdich’s work contains a beautiful illustration of the yam festival, which displays the local citizens gathering at the ceremony and the kings in their palanquins. The ancient symbols on the large umbrellas convey different messages relating to the wisdom of life and are totems of the different clans within the Akan / Asante Empire.

The first day of the yam festival, with local citizens gathering at the ceremony, kings in their palanquins and large colourful umbrellasThe first day of the yam festivalPostscript

Following the end of the Second World War, in which Britain’s African colonies had contributed both men and resources, a wave of nationalism began to sweep colonial territories, led by men such as Ghana’s first leader, Kwame Nkrumah (1909-72). In Harold Macmillan’s famous ‘wind of change’ speech, delivered in Cape Town in 1960, Britain recognised the ‘national consciousness’ stirring on the continent and signalled its intentions for disengagement.

The resulting policies and processes of decolonisation, though involving some conflict, did avoid the large-scale revolutionary wars fought in other European colonies, such as the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62) and the Angolan War of Independence (1961-74).

Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) was the first of Britain’s black African colonies to declare independence and 6 March 2017 marks 60 years of Ghanaian independence. The FCDO Historical Collection holds much material on imperial history and also on the decolonisation process, independence movements and postcolonial relations.

In this exhibition

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