Ghana’s Asante King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has been in Memphis for the Memphis in May International Festival, a week-long series of events to learn about this year’s “honored country,” Ghana.
The king of Ghana’s Asante (or Ashanti) Kingdom in the city of Kumasi participated in a Beale Street procession after arriving in Memphis last week and presiding over the Asanteman Durbar Ceremony in Handy Park. During the display of Asante culture at the Beale Street procession durbar, various Asante associations, groups, and individuals paid homage to Osei Tutu II.
The king attended several festival events last week, but perhaps the most exciting was his birthday celebration at the Peabody Hotel on May 6. ABC24 News reported that Osei Tutu II celebrated his 72nd birthday as honorary Duckmaster. Traditional rulers from Asanteman (Ashanti Kingdom), Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States Hajia Alima Mahama, business leaders from Ghana and the United States, and members of the Ghanaian community in the United States were among the attendees.
Recently, a gold coin was struck to honor the Asantehene “for his outstanding contribution to peace and national development,” according to the source. During the dinner at the Renasant Convention Centre, the 24-karat gold coin was presented to Charles Ewing, the chairman of the 2022 Memphis in May International Festival.
According to its website, the mission of Memphis in the May International Festival is to promote and celebrate Memphis culture, foster economic growth, and increase international awareness through education. Memphis in May originally selected Ghana as the honored nation for 2020, but the pandemic shifted the celebrations to this year.
Osei Tutu II, the sixteenth Asantehene, was invited to participate in the Festival’s Salute to Ghana, which highlighted the culture and traditions of the West African nation. Before his birthday celebrations, the Asantehene delivered a speech Thursday afternoon at the University of Memphis in which he emphasized the significance of education.
“Wherever our leaders have taken us, it has been policy to engage the youth in the educational system. In a speech titled “Contemporary Challenges in U.S.-Africa Relations,” the king stated that education is a top priority “not only as a reflection of the importance we place on education, but also because we recognize that fostering understanding among youth is the surest way to ensure the future of the world.”
“Memphis citizens can be proud of their city’s foresight in establishing the Memphis in May International Festival,” the king said. “We have traveled several hundred miles from the heart of Africa to celebrate with the city this year, and it is only fitting that we take advantage of the occasion to foster greater understanding as a contribution to the continental relations between the people of our two countries.”
The king also educated the audience on the history and culture of the Asante kingdom and Ghana. Osei Tutu II is a direct descendant of the first Asante King, who established the Asante Empire in 1701. The empire fought British colonization until the end of the nineteenth century. Its region is now a part of modern Ghana, a presidential republic. The Asantehene continues to exert kingly authority over his subjects and promotes peace and development.