|"The First Day
of the Yam Custom:" The King of Ashanti sits on the right on a chair of
ebony and gold beneath the "state umbrella" in 1817.
|From Thomas E.
Bowdich, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee (London, 1819), between
pp. 274 and 275 (reprinted Frank Cass, 1966).
|"The first day
of the yam custom," a colored engraving (drawn by Bowdich and engraved
by R. Havell & Son) showing procession, king's retainers, onlookers. On
the right of the image, the king is seated ("in a chair of ebony and
gold") under the "state umbrella" (with the elephant on top);
the flags of several European nations (Britain, France, Denmark) are to the
right and left of the king's throne. The image shown here is the center
portion of a large fold-out showing many details of this important public
cermony. The right -hand section (not presented here) shows, among other
activities, European guests seated and observing the ceremony. "The yam
custom is annual . . . [it] is like the Saturnalia; neither theft, intrigue,
or assault are punishable during the continuance, but the grossest liberty
prevails, and each sex abandons itself to its passions" (Bowdich, p.
274; a detailed description of the ceremony, including the illustration, is
given in chapter 5).