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Current Watch Site
ASANTE TRADITIONAL BUILDINGS
near Kumasi, Ashanti Region, Ghana
At its zenith in the eighteenth century, the Asante Kingdom was one of the richest and most powerful states on the African continent. Today, one of the few vestiges of this once flourishing kingdom are ten traditional shrines believed to have been built in the nineteenth century. Scattered in villages to the north and northeast of Kumasi in central Ghana, these earthen buildings demonstrate some of the artistic achievements of the Asante culture. Decorative reliefs cover the dwellings with intricate interlacing geometrical designs, depicting animals and Adinkra symbols.
For a time the shrines were well preserved, as master craftsmen from each village were responsible for their maintenance. However, as government oversight of heritage eclipsed local stewardship in the mid-twentieth century, traditional materials and techniques were replaced with more cost-effective materials like corrugated metal roofing and cement plaster.
The site is inscribed on the World Heritage List, but only one of the ten shrines, Besease, has been restored. The remaining nine are in advanced stages of decay, compounded by a loss of traditional know-how, remote locations, and disuse. Conservation of Besease used a process of community engagement and training to revitalize the shrine as a heritage destination and to build a cadre of craftspeople with traditional skills. The success of these efforts could serve as a model for others.
IN WMF JOURNAL
- Conserving the Traditional Architecture of the Asantes
March 19, 2013