Akan Marriage Patterns

Akan marriage patterns reflect village endogamy, cross cousin marriage, the leverate, polygyny and bridewealth payments. As many of these practices are better documented among the other examples, we will focus on the cross cousin marriage and its importance for lineage alliance.

Localized matrilineages are the fundamental building blocks of Akan society, economy, and political organization. They are in turn organized on a higher level into nucleated settlements in which they constitute component neighbourhoods. They are primarily connected to one another through allegiance to a common chief but achieve a more basic unity through intermarriage, which is regularly supported by lineage exogamy, preferential marriage within the settlement (village endogamy), and cross cousin marriage. This last institution creates a circulating system of marital and other exchanges among all the lineages that are coresident within a particular town. Marriage also contributes to internal integration through the institution of royal polygyny, in which the chief takes at least one wife from each lineage within the town to consolidate his ties with his subjects.

Oware (marriage), a popular Akan game
(Note that the game is played by rotating the seeds through the "houses" depicted.)
© 2000 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents

© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Created 1995