Odwira is a celebration of national identity by the Akan or Asante people of Ghana, once known as the Gold Coast. The festival originated centuries ago as a time for people to assemble after the yam harvest, and was inaccurately called the Yam Festival by non-Africans.
The kingdom of Ashanti, which is now the region of Ashanti, became rich and powerful in the late 1600s under its first ruler, Asantahene ("King") Osei Tutu. He is believed to have initiated the festival with the additional purpose of reinforcing the loyalty of the subjugated chiefs. The nation he built up withstood the British until 1901. He built a palace at Kumasi, and to further strengthen the nation, he and a priest, Okomfo Anokye, introduced the legendary Golden Stool. Supposed to have been brought down from heaven, it was thought to enshrine the nation's soul and became a symbol of the bond between all Ashanti people. Tutu also set down laws for life and religion. Much of this culture still survives.
During Odwira, the national identity is reinforced with purification ceremonies: a priest in each town prepares a purification bundle of certain tree branches and shoots, and in the evening carries it out of town and buries it. The Golden Stool is carried in a procession and placed on a throne without touching the ground. Huge umbrellas to protect participants from the sun add to the color of the procession. Drums and horns provide music.