Asante Stools and the Matrilineage

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Asante Stools and the Matrilineage

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Title: Asante Stools and the Matrilineage
Author: Hale, Catherine Meredith
Citation: Hale, Catherine Meredith. 2013. Asante Stools and the Matrilineage. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Discussions of Asante stools in Western literature and museum records have focused exclusively on their association with male chiefs. My research, which combines archival and oral histories, and sets the existing literature and documentation on stools in comparative perspective, reframes existing thinking by asserting that asese dwa (sing. sese dwa), or conventional Asante stools, are intimately connected with women, and especially, queen mothers. Although the stool today is known widely as a symbol of male chieftaincy, chiefs do not sit on them in public. They use them only in very specific private spheres. It is queen mothers who sit on stools publically as seats of authority. The physical form of the stool, especially the mmaa dwa or "woman's stool" is a powerful symbol of female fecundity and the propagation of the Asante peoples. By exploring queen mother’s archives of stools and their dynamic uses of them, I present a more expansive history of these important cultural objects that challenges the taxonomies established by R. S. Rattray (1927) and others during the twentieth century. Contrary to the clearly defined hierarchies of symbolism, materials and structure that have informed assessments of historical stools in the West, Asante queen mothers have commissioned and used stools in an ongoing and context-dependent process of negotiation for at least a century. In this dissertation I explore the history of Asante stools since the late-nineteenth century through the lens of queen mothers’ perspectives.
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