‘The Afrikan Chair’

Perhaps the ancestor of the “African Elder Chair” and the “Golden Stool” (Ashanti throne) dates to “the Afrikan Chair” commonly used by pre-dynastic African cultures (e.g. Kush, Meroe, and Axum) of the Nile valley (Asante, K., The History of Africa p95). During Kemet’s Old Kingdom (5660-4188 BC) Afrikan chairs or stools in various Pharaohs’ pyramids were found intact and well preserved. Such were deemed in Ancient Kemet to be cultural symbols of Leadership, Wisdom, Strength, and Spiritual authority. Their Kemetic authority was based on principles of Maat (i.e. truth, justice, righteousness, reciprocity, balance, harmony, and order etc.) and their “seat of power” designation was attributed to the Pharaoh’s divine rule.

Subsequently, according to Akeem K Jamal, Afrikan chairs or stools in modified forms served as a means of passing on wisdom and knowledge from one generation to another. For example, when a father gives a stool to his son or a mother gives a stool to her daughter this signifies the continuity of life and a process of handing down Afrikan traditions. Another modification occurred in highly stratified African societies with traditional kingdoms, such as that of the Ashanti (Asante) of southern Ghana. Here, Afrikan chairs or stools had utility and tradition purposes; were symbols of power; and were works of Art (R.L. Anderson, Art In Primitive Societies p43).

The “Golden Stool” stands out as important for Ashanti unity and stability. Its story originated with the Confederacy’s formation by a number of previously independent city-states. To seal the union, Okomfo Anokye, chief priest, adviser, confidant, and paternal nephew of Osei Tutu (the first king of the Confederacy) promised the king and the nation he would call down from the skies a super-natural stool of solid gold which would enshrine and protect the soul of the nation. As a precondition to fulfilling his promise, however, he demanded the ancestral (blackened) stools, state shields, state swords, and other regalia of all the member states be surrendered to him. After this was done, he buried them in the bed of the Bantama River in Kumasi to ensure no item of regalia in the new kingdom could have a longer history than the Golden Stool and hence take precedence over it.

Also, by depriving the formerly independent states of the relics of their respective pasts helped pave the way toward a new and broader union. When these conditions were met the Golden Stool appeared, falling from heaven onto the lap of the king. It was proclaimed that the Stool be treated with the utmost respect. Anokye ordered that locks of hair, nailpairings and rings belonging to the principle chiefs present be surrendered so as to be driven into the Stool, along with such mystical objects as the skin of a viper. He also spelled out a formal constitution for the government of the Ashanti and outlined a code of moral laws to be observed throughout the country. Today, the Stool is considered super-natural (and needing to be fed). To it are rendered honors on par with those received by high ranking authorities.

The story of the “African Elder Chair” is that when a wise elder of the community visits a home the best chair is provided for him/her and thereafter no one sits in that chair in honor of the wisdom imparted out of it. That “Chair” signifies acceptance by the community of that elder to provide advice and to settle conflicts or dilemmas (Bakari). To receive the “African Elder Chair” award is a high honor. Akeem K Jamal, who recently made a presentation, said: “The gift of the Afrikan chair was given to Dr. Joseph A. Bailey II for his continued leadership, wisdom, and purpose in preserving Afrikan history and traditions. The Afrikan chair’s symbolic nature was derived from the collective purpose that was passed on to Dr. Bailey II by his endearing elders.”