An Asante chief wearing silk cloth and gold jewelry.—Doran H. Ross
People of southern Ghana and adjacent areas of Togo and Côte d'Ivoire. The largest segment of the Akan peoples, they speak Twi, a language of the Kwa group of Niger-Congo languages; all together the Akan peoples make up about half the population of Ghana. Though some Asante now live and work in urban centres, most live in villages and engage in agriculture. The symbol of Asante unity is the Golden Stool, held to be so sacred that not even kings were allowed to sit on it. The Asante supplied slaves to British and Dutch traders in exchange for firearms, which they used to build up a large empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. They fought several wars against the British (1824, 1863, 1869, 1874), finally losing their capital, Kumasi, in 1896. Thereafter what remained of the empire went into decline. Asante goldwork and kente cloth remain prominent items of trade. See alsoFante.