Fashion evolves over years. But the traditional Akan royal footwear popularly known as Ahenemaa appears to have stood the test of time and is still regarded as one of the relics and traditional symbolisms of the Akans.
Also known as Kyawkyaw to mimic the sound it makes under the feet, it was reserved for chiefs and queen mothers. It later devolved to allow royals and other subjects of the stool to also wear same to traditional occasions.
The components of the royal footwear are basic. It’s usually footwear with a flat base and two straps decorated with ornaments.
It was hitherto made out of wood, skin and ropes but contemporary makers have inculcated special Italian leather into its designs.
Owusu Ansah a native of Kumasi has been making Ahenemaa otherwise Kyawkyaw for the past twenty five years.
His small shed finds itself in the centre of culture located right opposite the gates of the Manhyia palace where the King of the Asante Kingdom the Asantehene Otumffuo Osei Tutu the second commands authority.
His clients cut across chiefs, traditional authorities and commoners who either come here to order for Kyawkyaw or repair old ones.
Quite revealing to me; he discloses that far away from the fashion of Ahenemaa, there are many types of the footwear with each suited for specific occasions.
“Every KYAWKYAW has a distinct name,” He recounted. “We have t3kyir3ma 3nyi Ay3 to wit the tongue is not grateful, Asaase tokuro which translates the hole in the earth, 3buburo Kosua Ade3 a 3b3y3yie Nseida, a proverb which draws from the eggs of a dove.”
He added, “There is also )ky3m ne Aya; Sensam, k)t) didia 3y3 ap)nkyir3nii ya which translates the laughter of the crab infuriates the frog.”
These names emanate from tales and myths of the Ashanti folklore usually told in fables to teach the moral lessons of life.
But Owusu Ansah is not enthused several young people wear the Kyawkyaw wrongly because of their ignorance about what each Kyawkyaw is supposed to be used for.
“You cannot wear any kyawkyaw to any occasion. There are black ones for funeral; white ones for religious activities. Others have kentey and gold for occasions like child christening but the youth use them anyhow.”
Owusu Ansah also disclosed another mystery of the Kyawkyaw worn by successive kings of the Ashanti Kingdom. These are rare footwear made of skins of beasts in the forest and can only be made by the Otumffuo’s Mpaboahene.
He explained, “Otumffuo’s kyawkyaw is made of skin. There are specific large mammals hunted for this kind of footwear. It is woven in steps and particular seasons. The kyawkyaw could be made with skins of seven different animals. At other times four animals. Some types of bison’s and dears are preferred. It can only be woven by the family of the royal footwear chief.”
But how many Akans who adorn their kyawkyaw know the names of what they own and for which occasions they were made for.
“I own a couple of them, but I have never heard that they have names,” a young man told reporter Ivan Heathcote – Fumador….. but i only choose them based on which ever one matches with my clothing.”
Surprisingly, a royal also indicated that she only wore the Kyawkyaw to occasions because her father who is a chief demands that she does so in line with royalty but didn’t also know the names of the kyawkyaw.
I am a royal and I have a kyawkyaw. I sometimes wrap cloth or put on Kente to follow my father to occasions.
Bet you would be minded to find out the exact type of Ahenemaa you are buying when you want to mirror some royalty before you find yourself in a right place on wrong footwear. But feel free to purchase one at least to keep a bit of a traditional touch to your belongings.
By:Ghana/Ultimatefmonline.com/106.9FM/Ivan Heathcote – Fumador