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Mar 20, 2018 | Book Review

BOOK EXCERPT: The Influence Of Ancient Egypt On The Akan People Of Ghana


From the Book: The Akan of Ghana. Aspects of Past & Present Practices by Kofi Ayim

Perhaps the one ancient Egyptian personality who most influenced the people that became the Akan of Ghana was the religious revolutionary Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled during the Amarna era (18th Dynasty). He mounted the throne with the praenomen Amenhotep IV (Amenhotep means Amen is at Peace) after the death of his father Amenhotep III, who was believed to have sired a son with the daughter of the biblical Joseph and his Egyptian wife. This son with a biracial (Hebrew and Egyptian) mother and an African father became Pharaoh Amenhotep IV. He was also therefore biracial. Prior, no person with such mixed parentage was known to have occupied the highest position in ancient Egypt, (even though foreigners like the Hykos had ruled Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period). The Priests of ancient Egypt–who were the next powerful entity after the Pharaoh–might have been uneasy with a biracial person on the sacred throne of Egypt. Amenhotep IV–1352-1336 BC–had his own plan because he was acutely aware of the challenges ahead with respect to the priesthood. Born and raised in the palace of the Pharaoh, Prince Amenhotep was educated in the mysteries and magic of Pharoahic Egypt.

Amenhotep IV’s troubles started when he attempted to abolish all the various gods in ancient Egypt and consolidate them into one god, called Aten. In fact, he is known in history as the first to create a monotheistic religion, Atenism. He set the ball rolling by changing his throne name of Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten (which means glory of god). It must be realized that most Pharoachic names are prefixed or suffixed with the name of a god or deity such as Amenhotep or Akhenaten. Not only did Akhenaten abolish the worship of several gods, albeit temporarily, he moved the seat of the throne to an entirely new city he created and called it Akhetaten (Akhetaten means Horizon of the Aten). The livelihood and existence of the powerful Egyptian priesthood was under threat, perpetuated by a Pharaoh of mixed blood!

Akhenaten’s monotheist god was genderless, had no images but had an aspect of the Sun, whose rays shot forth from above and onto the outstretched palms of believers who sought to receive blessings, divine intercession, and other potent powers from “above.” By virtue of his biracial status, Akhenaten had lots of believers and followers of both Africans and Hebrews. Akhenaten was not entirely successful in his religious revolution and was finally chased out of Egypt. While his maternal believers headed in an exodus across the Red Sea to their ancestral home, his paternal believers on the other hand, headed south of the Sahara where ancient Egyptians had always acknowledged their ancestry. According to Greenberg, “Egyptian records identify the victims as the followers of the Aten; the Bible identifies them as the Children of Israel.”

In the Twi language of the Akan, Akhenaten is written and pronounced Akenten, a common name among the Asante people. In fact, the current occupant of the Offinso Stool in Asante is Nana Wiafe Akenten. The name Akhenaten is written and pronounced similarly to Worcester (pronounced Worster), Leicester (pronounced Leister), and Karikari (a common Akan name pronounced Kakari), and many others. It may therefore be accurately assumed that the correct pronunciations of some ancient African names can be found nowhere else except in contemporary African cultures.

Further, in the Akan language, Judgment is Aten and Judgment Day is Aten mu da. Obe bu wo aten means “you’ll be judged.” The Aten in Akan is therefore the God of Judgment. Variations of Aten are compounded in some Akan names such as Kyereme-aten (Kyerematen), Bo-aten (Boaten), Gya-aten (Gyaaten), Nyan-aten (Nyanten), Amo-aten (Amoaten), Kwa-aten (Kwaten), Adon-‘ten (Adonten), etc. In this name structure, Adonten presents an interesting interpretation. According to Osman, the equivalent of ancient Hebrew vowels for the letters t and e are d and o, respectively. When these equivalent vowels are replaced in the word/name “Aten,” it becomes Adon. Adonai or the Akan word Adona (Adona has more than one meaning in the Twi language) could be interpreted as “My Lord,” or the Merciful One. Adonten is therefore a combination of Adon and Aten (Adon ‘ten).

Once upon a time in Takyiman in the Brong Ahafo Region of present-day Ghana, young women celebrated the Bo me Tuo festival. Scantily dressed and dancing the day away along the main streets in a carnival fanfare mood, a young woman would raise one leg high towards an unsuspecting man and shout “bo me tuo” (fire or shoot me). The idea was to receive potent rays of the Merciful God from the man that would render her fertile for childbirth. It’s very likely that aspects of the Bo me Tuo festival found their way to the Caribbean during the slavery period and merged with other cultures for the birth of Caribbean Carnival. Scantily dressed women in contemporary Carnival festivities was not created in or from vacuum.

The ancient Egyptian Ma-Shu was the goddess of truth, law, and justice. According to Massey, the biblical name Moses was derived from the Egyptian dual characters of Ma and Shu (light and shade). The Hebrew translation of Ma Shu is Musu. The 10th-century Greek philologist Suidas contends that Musu was a woman credited as the Hebrew lawgiver and author of Jewish laws. In the Akan concept of righteousness, to cause a taboo to happen is Musu or Musuo. Wabo Musu literally means he/she has “kicked” against Musu. It is this same old lady (Aberewa) Musu who is invoked in Akan traditional prayers – libation - and also consulted for wisdom when there is a logjam in a traditional arbitration. Yen ko bisa Aberewa (let’s go consult the old lady) in a traditional court is a process akin to a sidebar conference in a Western/European law courts.

Some ancient Egyptian names are readily identified in Akan name structures. Khufu (a Pharoah of the 4th Dynasty) is Akuffo (when one considers the fact that the common Akan name Kwasi is rendered Akwasi in Asante configuration), Pau is Apau, Djary (a Theban military officer) is Agyare, Khentamentiu is Kantamanto, Khakeri is Kakari, Kakai is Kakai (both Khakeri and Kakai were Pharaohs at different times), and Aye (an Amarna Pharaoh in the 18th Dynasty). [BFA1] Haware, the Egyptian name for Ayaris, a city in the Delta, in both ancient Egyptian language and Akan means “this place is far.” Mesore, the name for the Ancient Egyptian month of June/July, means to rise, which indicated the inundation of the Nile. Mesore in Akan means to rise. Mena is motherhood in both ancient Egyptian and Akan; ka means soul in Egyptian, while kra means soul in Akan.

The cannibalization of some ancient Egyptian names/words by the Greeks to suit their name structure has removed any consanguineous relations between ancient Egypt and the rest of Africa. For example, Amenhotep IV was called by the Greek as Amenophis IV; Amon (Amen) became the Zeus of the Greek and later the Jupiter of the Romans; the Egyptian name of Asare became Osiris, Mamfe became Memphis, Khufu was Cheops, Khafre was Chephren, Menkaure was Mycerius, Ramessu became Ramses and Senwosre was Sesostris. (Senwosre III, a 12th Dynasty Pharaoh led an Egyptian Army Expedition to Western Georgia in the former Soviet Union. They settled along the old Phasis River and became the Colchians. Because of their Egyptian physical characteristics, they were later invariably referred to as the Black Russians. The Abkhazian people are believed to have been descendants of the Colchians.).

In retrospect, it is important to note that Greek equivalent names of the gods and people of ancient Egypt have rendered it almost impossible—at least at first glance—to identify them as original African names.

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