The Mfanstefo or Fante (“Fanti” is an older spelling) are an Akan people. The Fante people are mainly located in the Central and Western coastal regions of Ghana, with some also in Ivory Coast. Over the last half centuries due to fishing expeditions, Fante communities are found as far as Gambia, Liberia and even Angola. Like all Akans, they originated from Bono state. Originally, “Fante” referred to “the half that left” and initially settled at Mankessim.
Some of the state that make up the Fante are Agona, Kurantsi, Abura, Anyan, Ekumfi, Nkusukum, Ajumako, Edina, Eguafo, Ahanta and Gomoa. The Fante, like other related Akans, trace their roots to the ancient Sahara in the Old Ghana Empire. The Fantes then migrated from the south to modern day Techiman in the Brong Ahafa region.
It was from there that, legend say, their three great Leaders, Oson, Odapagyan and Obrumankoma (the whale, eagle and elephant) led them from south and separated from other Akans, to Mankessim.
ORIGIN OF THE FANTE’S
According to oral tradition the Fantes separated from the other Akan groups in the present day Brong Ahafo around 1250 AD. This act became the origin of their name. “Fa-atsew” meaning “half that left”. The Fantes left their Akan brethren at Krako, present day Techiman in the Bono East of Ghana, and became their own district Akan group. The Fantes were led by three great warriors known as Oson, Odapagyan and Obrumankoma (the whale, eagle and elephant).
According to tradition, Odapagyan and Obrumankoma died on the exodus and were embalmed and carried the rest of the way. OSON led the people to what would become Mankessim in1252. Legend has it that the Fante’s chief priest, Komfo Amona, planted a spear in the ground when they reached the location of the settlement. The spear is called the Akyin-Eenyim, meaning “in front of the god”. The place became the meeting place for the Fante elders and the head fetish priest when discussing important issues.
The first Omanhen (King) of Mankessim was installed here, and later kingmakers would visit the site for consultation. According to the Fante, the spear cannot be removed by mortal hands. The land the Fante reached was initially called Adoakyir by its exiting inhabitants which the Fante called “Etsi-fue-yifo” meaning people with bushy hair. The Fante conquered these people and renamed the settlement Oman-kesemu, meaning large town. The name has evolved into the current name Mankessim.
The Fante settle the land as their first independent kingdom, and buried Obrumankoma and Odapagyan in a sacred grove called Nana-nom-pow. Komfo Amona also planted the limb of a tree he had brought from the Akan homeland in Krako to see if the place was good for settlement. The day after the priest planted the limb, the people found the tree starting to grow. The tree was named Ebisa-dua, or the consulting tree, and its location is today one of the most important shrine in Mankessim.