Yam Ceremony, Asante [Ashanti], ca. 1817

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Image Reference

Thomas E. Bowdich, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee (London, 1819), between pp. 274 and 275 (reprinted Frank Cass, 1966).

"The first day of the yam custom," a colored engraving (drawn by Bowdich and engraved by R. Havell & Son) showing procession, king's retainers, onlookers. On the right of the image, the king is seated ("in a chair of ebony and gold") under the "state umbrella" (with the elephant on top); the flags of several European nations (Britain, Holland, Denmark) are to the right and left of the king's throne. The image shown here is the center portion of a large fold-out showing many details of this important public cermony. The right -hand section (not presented here) shows, among other activities, European guests seated and observing the ceremony. "The yam custom is annual . . . [it] is like the Saturnalia; neither theft, intrigue, or assault are punishable during the continuance, but the grossest liberty prevails, and each sex abandons itself to its passions" (Bowdich, p. 274; a detailed description of the ceremony, including the illustration, is given in chapter 5).