Shrine houses as symbols of old Akan architecture

The shrine house at Besease was built around 1850. It is one of the 10 remaining examples of the old traditional Asante architectural style. So often mentioned and documented by early european travellers to this region as far back as the late 18th century.

These have all been listed on the world heritge list as rare surviving examples of significant traditional architectural style, that of the influential, powerful and wealthy Asante kingdom.

Although this style, especially the elaborately decorated examples was in the past prominent in kumasi, the capital of the Asante kingdom. No examples remain there today.

Most of the surviving examples are shrine houses found in smaller villges surrounding kumasi. A reason for this could be that they have been protected from the extensive damage suffered in the major towns during the numerous wars of the last century.  Another reason may be that they have escaped the pace of evolution in architecture  which has naturally been much faster in kumasi and other major Asante towns.



Architectural styles explained

The most distinct feature of Asante architecture is the elaborate and intricate decorations of the walls. These can be devided into two main  categories. Those on the upper walls and those on the lower sections of the wall.

The upper section of the walls. Beams, columns and lintels are decorated with a variety of designs in low relief . These show intricate geometric designs. However depiction of animals like crocodiles, birds and fish also occur on the upper section of the wall.

As it is with the case of other traditional forms of the Asante, these decorations are not mere ornamentation but have symbolical meanings handed from generation to generation. This form of non-verbal communication played an important role in traditional Asante society.


Many of the motifs used in decorating the building especially on the lower walls, resemble and are directly related to adinkra symbols. These motifs were also stamped into clothes with the help of little stamps carved out of calabash.

In the past there were over a hundred Adinkra symbols. Each having a name and meaning. Adinkra symbols reoccured on many other objects of traditional material culture like Asante gold weights, gold dust containers and Asante stools.


Some images of Adinkra symbols that were used in Akan Architecture and Akan style of architecture

Asante architecture

Asante architecture

Asante architecture

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