Osei Tutu

ca. 1636–1717
Asante king

Osei Tutu, the first king of the ASANTE people of western Africa, united the people in campaigns of military conquest and expansion. In about 1685 Osei Tutu succeeded his uncle as ruler of Kumasi, one of many Asante states. He continued the wars of expansion that his uncle had begun and brought the various Asante territories together against common foes (1699–1701). This military union provided the framework of Asante unity. Osei Tutu made Kumasi the capital of a growing Asante kingdom, which under his successors included most of present-day GHANA and eastern IVORY COAST.

As asantehene, or king, Osei Tutu introduced several institutions that endure today. One is the Golden Stool, the supreme shrine of the Asante people and a symbol of their spiritual and political identity. Another is odwira, an annual festival that brings together all Asante. Osei Tutu also established a set of laws that the Asante regard as the basis of their nation. (See also Festivals and Carnivals, Kings and Kingship, Laws and Legal Systems.)