Yam Ceremony, Asante [Ashanti], ca. 1817


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Image Reference
B018

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

Comments
"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).