The Last Will and Testament of Kofi Sraha

A Note on Accumulation and Inheritance in Colonial Asante

T. C. McCaskie


On 20 May 1936 the Board of Directors of the Ashanti Farmers Association Ltd. convened in Bridge House, Adum Street, Kumase. The house belonged to Kofi Sraha, the founding President of the AFA. The next meeting was held on 13 July in the Mbrom dwelling of the AFA Director Kofi Nantwi (J. S. Kankam), for by then Kofi Sraha was dead. A famous businessman, Kofi (John “Papa”) Sraha of Kumase and Abrepo died as one of the wealthiest commoners (nkwankwaa) in all Asante. Throughout his life he was a leader of those who claimed the right to dispose of personally accumulated wealth as and how they saw fit. He was also an innovator in such matters. He was perhaps the first Asante to draw up a notarized last will and testament, to appoint legal executors to implement it, and to have the courts enforce its dispositions. Thus far the will itself has not come to light, but there is sufficient evidence of other kinds available to allow some discussion. This note is intended to draw attention to the matter, and to contribute to research on patterns of accumulation and inheritance in colonial Asante.1


Kofi Sraha was born about 1863 at Abrepo (now in Kumase, but then three miles north-west of the Asante capital). He was the eldest son of Kwaku Taa, an ahenkwaa in service to the asantehene as a player of the twenenini, the principal drum in the royal apirede ensemble. Kwaku Taa was promoted apiredehene by the asantehene Kofi Kakari (1867–74). By then Kofi Sraha had (at least) two paternal brothers. These were Kwaku Donto (later known as James Ernest Bandoh, whose mother was an oyoko anyinaase royal of Kumase) and Kwame Donko (later known as Emmanuel Kwame Donkor, whose name suggests that his mother was a slave-ɔdɔnkɔ). The three boys were close associates. All were destined for service in Kumase as royal nhenkwaa. The apirede ensemble was small (only four drummers, with a variable number of stick clapping accompanists), and its repertoire was hard to master. Abrepo nhenkwaa who showed little aptitude or were surplus to need were recruited as royal ahopraɔ (elephant tail switchers), for the apiredehene was a member of that service group in addition to being a drummer. For whatever reasons, Kofi Sraha, Kwaku Donto and Kwame Donko were all sent to Kumase to be elephant tail switchers in the service of Kofi Kakari’s brother and successor the asantehene Mensa Bonsu (1874–83).2

The destoolment of Mensa Bonsu in 1883 initiated a civil war that Jasted until Agyeman Prempe emerged victorious in 1888. In the course of this Abrepo was sacked and Kumase fell into ruin. Warlordism in the absence of an asantehene meant that nhenkwaa like Kofi Sraha and his brothers were cast adrift. No longer maintained in service by royal support, unable to farm with security and in danger from military predation and violence, the brothers joined the exodus of displaced nhenkwaa into the British Gold Coast Colony. They fled south of the Pra in 1885 “when Ashanti became disintegrated” and settled in Cape Coast. They were still there in 1886 when “the war between Adanse and Bekwai broke out.” But in 1887 when “[the kokofuhene Osei] Asibe came to fight for [Yaw] Twereboanna” they removed to nearby Saltpond. They remained there for a further decade. Then in 1897, “a year after Prempeh was taken away,” Kofi Sraha returned to Kumase. His brothers followed only after the British annexation of Asante in 1901.3

The sojourn on the Gold Coast was crucial in shaping the lives of the three brothers. Like other nhenkwaa, they did not flee Asante empty handed. They took gold ornaments or regalia belonging to the ahoprafoɔ. Kofi Sraha arrived on the coast with “gold trinkets” and “gold wires” (presumably the wrapping from the haft of an elephant tail, mena). He became first a dealer in gold, and then a trader with Asante and Bron who came to the coast to exchange people and goods for capital to deploy in the emerging rubber trade. From these beginnings, he entered the rubber business himself and diversified to selling gunpowder and salt into Asante. He was helped in his business by Kwame Donko. But he had different plans for his other brother. Kwaku Donko was sent to Wesleyan-Methodist school, where he became a literate Christian (and assumed the name James Ernest Bandoh). J. E. Bandoh later recalled that “my elder brother Kofi Sraha put me to learning to read and write,” so that “I would assist in a proper way with the family business.” That is, Kofi Sraha recognized the growing importance of literacy and set one younger brother to acquire it while he managed capital accumulation on behalf of all three with the aid of the other brother.4

It is not possible at present to date the evolutionary stages in Kofi Sraha’s political and economic thinking. But their outcome is not in doubt. On the Gold Coast his experiences of the extortion and violence of Asante under Mensa Bonsu and in the civil war turned him, like many another, into a convinced opponent of the office holding hierarchy he had been trained to serve. Instead, and especially in matters concerning inalienable individual rights over self-acquired property, he embraced the laissez-faire capitalism mediated by English common law statute that he encountered under British jurisdiction. He was a man, said J. E. Bandoh, “who in life claimed his property in doing as he wished for his own good and in helping others”; he refused the idea that “a King was taking if it pleased him to take” as had been the case “in days gone by” in Asante. Kofi Sraha’s repudiation of the customary duties and dues owed the asantehene and his office holders extended to government imposts generally. Thus, when his will was proved it was found that virtually none of his assets were in bank accounts, “as my brother could never be moved off the idea” that banks were “in league” with government. A concluding speculation might be made about Kofi Sraha’s attitudes while on the Gold Coast. Documentation from the 1890s echoes his views as outlined here (and in phrasing parallels letters he later put his name to, and also resonates with his opinions as described by those who knew him intimately). Kofi Sraha might have been one of the signatory “Ashantis who have ran to this Gold Coast” whose violent opposition to the Asante monarchy was communicated to the British in 1894: “In this vast country,” they wrote inter alia, “Gold alone is King. If any get that wealth he is King. We are all free aborigines of this country.”5


Returned to Asante under British rule, Kofi Sraha emerged as one of the leading lights in the akonkofoɔkuo, that association of businessmen that played a key role in embedding the new economic order while guarding against the return of the old. Two points made by commentators about the akonkofoɔ are relevant here.6

First, they formed a network for mutual commercial advancement. A deal of the retail, brokerage and other trades was in their hands, and their influence over the building of early colonial Kumase was large. Kofi Sraha was an early participant in the cocoa industry. But his primary activity was investing (and then reinvesting) in the construction of brick multi-storey buildings for commercial or residential leasing. In this, his literate brother J. E. Bandoh was indispensable. He dealt with bureaucracy and suppliers, drafted agreements and leases, and—in a society without lawyers—drew up articles of partnership between his elder brother and others. Hence, when Kofi Sraha entered into an undertaking with his fellow okonkoni Kwadwo Fori to build and rent House D36 in Kumase adum quarter in 1916, the agreement was drawn up and witnessed by J. E. Bandoh. In search of profit, many commoner akonkofoɔ went into business with office holders. J. E. Bandoh did on his own account. But Kofi Sraha “distrusted all the Kumasi Chiefs” and would not risk his money in ventures involving them. While two brothers worked in Kumase, the third Kwame Donko went into petty trade and oversaw the family cocoa farms at Abrepo and Besiase. The three remained close as business prospered through the First World War.7

Second, the akonkofoɔ were alert to any threat to their property rights. In particular, they feared the resurrection in any form of the precolonial tax regime of awunnyadeɛ (death duties, levied on self-acquired movable property) and ayibuadeɛ (inheritance taxes, levied on the immovable part of a deceased person’s estate). Liquid capital, cocoa or food farms and buildings would all be subject to such imposts. In the nineteenth century these taxes were the prerogative of the precolonial state in the person of the asantehene, and their curtailment was one of the conditions imposed upon Agyeman Prempe when he emerged victorious from the civil war. In 1908 akonkofoɔ protested that office holders were trying to revive for their own profit banned “laws empowering them to take possession of a deceased subject’s properties after his death.” The issue subsided, only to return after Agyeman Prempe’s repatriation (1924) and installation by the British as the kumasihene (1926). In 1930 Kofi Sraha’s was the first of thirty-nine signatures of “Loyal Subjects and Tax-Payers” on a “Petition Against Death Duties” addressed to the CCA. This communication painted a starkly partisan contrast between a past of swingeing exactions and a present of individual liberties; in the present context it is germane to note that “will making” was listed among the “cemented” virtues of colonial rule. In the event the precolonial tax system was not revived. But the campaign over many years against that eventuality is suggestive in itself. It shows the depths of alarm raised in akonkofoɔ like Kofi Sraha when their wealth came under threat, and it helps to explain the secrecy with which assets were concealed in every possible way. Perhaps it also helps to explain why a man like Kofi Sraha thought so hard about the form of his last will and testament as a means of insuring his legacy against unwelcome scrutiny or unanticipated fiscal demands.”8

The kumasihene Agyeman Prempe responded to the protests of 1930 by withdrawing recognition from the akonkofoɔkuo. But long before then in 1916 leading akonkofoɔ had given their blessing, financial and otherwise, to a more formal association than their own. This was the Asante Kotoko Union Society. Unlike the akonkofoɔkuo, AKUS was run by literates who saw themselves as a vanguard pressure group with a modernizing agenda for Asante. The educated J. E. Bandoh was a founding member and first President of AKUS (1916–20), whereas his unschooled brother Kofi Sraha was an official “Patron” of the organization along with a number of his fellow akonkofoɔ. “Patrons” were businessmen who helped to fund AKUS activities. In terms of present concerns, it is clear that AKUS was the means by which J. E. Bandoh emancipated himself from the dependent status of a younger brother. Increasingly, after 1916, he developed business and other interests distinct from those of Kofi Sraha. This led to tensions between the two. But J. E. Bandoh still publicly deferred to his elder brother as “Papa,” the popular sobriquet by which all who knew him acknowledged Kofi Sraha’s age, seniority and position in society.9


In arranging the disposition of his property Kofi Sraha opted for a mix of customary and colonial procedures. In the first place, and unlike numbers of his peers, Kofi Sraha was an Asante traditionalist in that the bulk of his estate went to his matrilineal kin (abusua). Second, in as much as specific bequests lay outside the matrilineage, he made use of the customary mechanism of samansie (lit. “that left by the spirits”), a verbal declaration before kin that a designated portion of an estate was to go at its owner’s death to a non-lineage member (usually a son). Third, Kofi Sraha used the practice (illegal but widespread in precolonial Asante) of devolving upon his legatees user rights in their inheritances prior to his own death. This had been a standard ruse for hiding the value of an estate from the asantehene, and its dedication to concealment and (tax) evasion clearly appealed to Kofi Sraha’s secretive attitude towards wealth. But Kofi Sraha had numerous assets and fretted a great deal about disputes leading to their dissipation after his death. Advised by J. E. Bandoh, he decided that “in this modern day of change” the sovereign guarantee that his orally expressed wishes would go unchallenged lay in setting them down in a written will entrusted to named executors. Validation in law depended upon notarized witness signatures, for Kofi Sraha declined to attest to his will before either a British magistrate or a Kumase divisional court. This was an acceptable enough procedure, for in disallowing lawyers in Asante before 1933 colonial government instead condoned a wide range of documents certificated by licensed “letter writers” and duly witnessed in their presence.10

Kofi Sraha began to frame his last will and testament in the 1920s. Its final version was notarized on 7 August 1931, five years before his death. In keeping with his own interpretation of the Asante injunction to keep private matters “within the house” (afisɛm), Kofi Sraha recruited to the preparation of his will only those with whom he had lengthy and close relations. J. E. Bandoh drafted the text(s); J. W. K. Appiah, husband of Bandoh’s wife’s only full sister and inter alia a licensed “letter writer,” notarized, stamped and signed the final document; I. K. Agyeman and S. T. Affainie, senior members of AKUS, sometime beneficiaries of Kofi Sraha’s patronage and intimate associates of Bandoh, witnessed the will in their capacity as joint executors, prepared a codicil listing assets, and were each given notarized copies of these documents for safekeeping; and A. K. Aphram, a uterine grandson of Kwaku Taa and long term resident in Kofi Sraha’s own house, signed to the effect that the executors as named were as appointed. As noted, no copy of this will has yet come to light. But it is known that it was set out in a sequence of (at least seven) numbered clauses, that it was concerned for the most part with houses and land, and that it was typically reticent in declaring amounts of cash bequeathed to legatees. The formula used in this last regard was to name the recipient and the location of the money (house, strongbox, etc.), but not the sum.11

Written and oral evidence both give some clue as to the contents of the will. As noted, the biggest bequests were retained within the abusua. Thus, Kofi Sraha’s two largest and best situated Kumase buildings went to two classificatory nieces (wɔfasewaanom), both daughters of his uterine first cousins at Abrepo; one of these buildings was Kofi Sraha’s personal residence, and it is recalled that he transferred the lease to the designated legatee years before he died from fear of the reintroduction of death duties. Apart from these customary reversals to the matrilineage, further houses and land were left to two of Kofi Sraha’s “adopted daughters,” both (possibly) somewhat distant uterine relatives but personally very close to him; significantly, one of these women was married to I. K. Agyeman, an executor of the will. A smaller Kumase dwelling went to a daughter, and a house at Tafo was left to one of Kofi Sraha’s wives. Detail aside, the most striking thing is the contrast between the innovatory form of the will and the conventional cast of its contents. Kofi Sraha’s arrangements were customary and conservative. To cast the abusua as the corporate beneficiary by leaving the bulk of the immovable estate to its female members’ was a measure sanctioned by historical values and routinized in precolonial practice. Furthermore, in making these dispositions Kofi Sraha not only deprived those excluded by traditional norms, but also disappointed those hoping to benefit from a will shaped by colonial precepts. J. E. Bandoh in particular clearly felt that he had been ill-served by his elder brother.12

J. E. Bandoh was baptized and educated by Wesleyan-Methodists. Kofi Sraha had no formal schooling, but he was baptized (John) on the Gold Coast. The brothers were both Christians, and whatever the nature of their belief Kofi Sraha was a strict Wesleyan-Methodist in matters of personal morality. Once returned to Asante, J. E. Bandoh had a child by a woman named Akua Dofo who was a ward or dependent of his elder brother. Whatever the nature of the liaison, and whether or not customary marriage rites were performed, Kofi Sraha was deeply offended by what he construed as immorality. This caused a schism between the brothers. It was healed when J. E. Bandoh contracted an appropriate marriage. But it is clear that J. E. Bandoh neither forgave his brother’s censure nor forgot Akua Dofo and their child. Both resurfaced in his mind as he contemplated Kofi Sraha’s will with something less than approval. Accordingly, in 1937 he contested Clause 7 of that document. This read as follows in full:

Clause 7: To KWAME DONKOH—I have already given him during my life time, what he is entitled to, and he being my elder son, must pay for my coffin on the 8th day after my death, the cost of which being £57.13

Ironically, the complex and bitter court case that ensued arose from the fact that the will had been written down. In putting his faith in the presumed exactitude of a sworn and binding document, Kofi Sraha was insufficiently aware of two things. First, text could be every bit as equivocal as the verbal ambiguities it was meant to abolish. Second, text that translated Twi into English could result in conceptual approximations and egregious errors.

J. E. Bandoh’s case was that Kofi Sraha had transferred ownership of one of his Kumase houses by samansie to his “elder son” Kwame Donko, and that this was the matter alluded to in Clause 7 of the will. The Kwame Donko in question, he continued, was the brother of Akua Dofo and both were adopted children of Kofi Sraha. Kwame Donko was “my brother-in-law,” said J. E. Bandoh, for his sister Akua Dofo was “my wife.” Both were now dead. That being the case, J. E. Bandoh claimed title to House 192, Fanti New Town, Kumase on behalf of Kwame Donko’s heir. The boy in question was Kwame Donko’s uterine nephew, but he was also J. E. Bandoh’s son by Akua Dofo. A counter-claim was then entered by Kwame Donko of Abrepo and Besiase, brother to Kofi Sraha and J. E. Bandoh. He argued that House 192 had been given to him by samansie. That the will referred to him as Kofi Sraha’s “elder son” he explained in two ways. First, when the brothers fled from Asante in the 1880s, his mother placed him “under the guardianship” of his elder brother Kofi Sraha in the status of”a son.” Second, the term “son” in Asante Twi (oba) encompassed a wider range of relationships than in English. It was used in “different meanings” and “various ways”; most pertinently, “the elder member of a family is generally addressed as father,” and so “the other members of the family address him as father, and he as sons.” Hence Kofi Sraha was generally known as “Papa,” and he regarded his younger brother Kwame Donko as his “elder son.”14

Argument over the identity of the Kwame Donko mentioned in the will soon spilled over into dispute about Kofi Sraha’s money. For reasons already suggested, no accounting was made of the bulk of Kofi Sraha’s assets in cash when his will was drawn up. J. E. Bandoh now accused his brother Kwame Donko of peculation and embezzlement; ever escalating sums—£115, £150, £450, £1,150, £3,300—were mentioned. Kwame Donko countered with the accusation that J. E. Bandoh had incurred and reciprocated Kofi Sraha’s dislike, and had used his elder brother’s wealth and business instincts to further his own interests. At this stage the Great Oath was exchanged over the ownership of House 192, and to the dismay of the will’s executors the protagonists went to court.15

The fundamental matter at issue before the court was the identity of the Kwame Donko mentioned in Clause 7 of Kofi Sraha’s will.16 J. E. Bandoh repeated his claim in evidence, adding that he had applied for letters of administration to disbar his brother from entering House 192: He concluded by basing his claim “on the last will and testament” of Kofi Sraha, in that the Kwame Donko mentioned in that document was his brother-in-law and not his brother. I. K. Agyeman was called as a witness by Bandoh. This proved disastrous, for under cross-examination I. K. Agyeman first affirmed that the word “son” had a broader meaning in Twi than in English, but then conceded that he and his fellow executor S. T. Affainie had never doubted that the person referred to in Clause 7 was Kofi Sraha’s brother, for he was “the only Kwame Donkor in the house of the deceased Sraha.” The court then invited Bandoh to “prove” his claim by enquiring if any relative of his deceased brother-in-law had discharged the obligation of £57 mentioned in Clause 7 in respect of Kofi Sraha’s imported “brass coffin.” In admitting that this had not been done, Bandoh weakened his case.

Kwame Donko now gave evidence. He stated that he had accompanied Kofi Sraha to the coast and upon their return to Asante “I served him up to the time I grew grey hairs.” He then retired to Abrepo in 1926. But before he quit Kumase he was called before Kofi Sraha and samansie was performed before kin and other witnesses. Kofi Sraha thanked Kwame Donko as his “eldest son” for services to himself and his business, transferred to him title to House 192 and gave him £200 in cash. Kwame Donko responded with the customary aseda (“thank-offering”). As confirmation, Kwame Donko produced rental and rate receipts for House 192 and a note from the will’s executors acknowledging that he had paid the £57 due on Kofi Sraha’s coffin. Agyeman Kofi Aphram was then called as a witness by Kwame Donko. He testified that he was kin to Kofi Sraha and present when the “old man” decided to give Kwame Donko House 192. Kofi Sraha thought the house rents and £200 working capital (dwetiri) would give Kwame Donko a comfortable retirement in Abrepo. The formal presentation (samansie) was made two days afterwards. Kwame Donko’s second and last witness was Afua Nipa Maanu, an aged petty trader and freed slave. She stated that the “domestic” Kwame Donko died in 1934, that he was unrelated to Akua Dofo, another “domestic,” and that she had known both well. This was because all three were “in the same scale,” having originally been purchased as slaves “from different towns and hamlets in the NTs.”

The court awarded House 192 to Kwame Donko on the grounds that J. E. Bandoh had failed to prove his claim. The Court Registrar, under instruction from the bench in the person of the domakwaehene/akyeamehene Kwame Amankwa, made public mention of the odd nature of the pleas entered in that “the will caused confusion” because its “use of ‘elder son’ took no recognition of what was in the deceased’s thinking.” It might be noted without further comment that J. E. Bandoh drafted the will and then built a case from his own wording. In sum, Kofi Sraha’s pioneering attempt to produce a written will backfired, at least in part. But his example turned out to be the wave of the future. By the 1940s the Asante courts were deluged with contested last wills and testaments, and Kumase lawyers were taking up the lucrative business of representing the parties in dispute.


  • 1. See K. Arhin ed. The Minutes of The Ashanti Farmers Association Limited 1934–36 (Legon, 1978), v, for Kofi Sraha, and 104–8, for the relevant AFA meetings. Manhyia Record Office, Kumase Court Records (Miscellaneous), Asantehene’s Divisional Court B, in re J. E. Bandoh (Plaintiff) vs Kwame Donkor (Defendant), commenced 28 August 1937, and ibid., Correspondence File ADC/K/37/40, “(The) Late Kofi Sraha’s Properties” are the sources used most extensively in this paper. Henceforth, these are cited as KSI and KS2 respectively.

  • 2. KS1, Testimonies of J. E. Bandoh, Kwame Donkor and I. K. Agyeman; KS2, J. E. Bandoh to J. W. K. Appiah, dd. Kumase, 17 June 1937. For background see Institute of African Studies, Legon, Asante Court Records Series 190; Apede Drum Stool History and 192: Abrepo Stool History, recorded by J. Agyeman-Duah, 14 and 22 January 1967; and J. H. Nketia, Drumming in Akan Communities of Ghana (London, 1963), 127–8.

  • 3. KS1, Testimony of Kwame Donkor; KS2, J. E. Bandoh to J. W K. Appiah, dd. Kumase, 17 June 1937 and J. E. Bandoh to I. K. Agyeman, dd. Kumase, 3 July 1937. The clearest chronological outline of civil war politics is still I. Wilks, Asante in the Nineteenth Century: The Structure and Evolution of a Political Order (Cambridge, 1975; reprinted with a new “Preamble,” 1989), 534–88.

  • 4. KS2, J. E. Bandoh to J. W K. Appiah, dd. Kumase, 17 June 1937. See too K. Arhin, “The Ashanti RubberTrade with the Gold Coast in the Eighteen-Nineties,” Africa, 42, 1 (1972), 32–43.

  • 5. KS2, J. E. Bandoh to J. W. K. Appiah, dd. Kumase, 17 June 1937, J. E. Bandoh to I. K. Agyeman, dd. Kumase, 3 July 1937, and J. E. Bandoh to Agyeman Kofi Aphram, dd. Kumase, 6 July 1937. For the letters of 1894 see I. Wilks, “Dissidence in Asante Politics: Two Tracts from the Late Nineteenth Century,” in I. Abu-Lughod, ed., African Themes: Northwestern University Studies in Honor of Gwendolen M. Carter (Evanston, 1975), 47–63 (since revised and reprinted in I. Wilks, Forests of Gold: Essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of Asante [Athens, OH., 1993], 169–88).

  • 6. The akonkofoɔ are treated in K. Arhin, “A Note on the Asante Akonkofo: A Non-Literate Sub-Elite, 1900–1930,” Africa, 56, 1 (1986), 25–31; J. W. Brown, “Kumasi, 1896-1923: Urban Africa during the Early Colonial Period,” Ph.D. (Wisconsin-Madison, 1972), in which they are termed “the Kumasi Gentlemen”; and W. J. Donkoh, “Colonialism and Cultural Change: Some Aspects of the Impact of Modernity upon Asante,” Ph.D. (Birmingham, 1994).

  • 7. KS1, Testimonies oft. K. Agyeman, Kwame Donkor andAgyeman KofiAphram; KS2, J. E. Bandoh to I. K. Agyeman, dd. Kumase, 3 July 1937 and “A List of Assets of the late Kofi Sraha, prepared and notarized by I. K. Agyeman and S. T. Affainie (Executors).”

  • 8. For the letters of 1908 and 1930 see K. Arhin, “Some Asante Views of Colonial Rule: As Seen in the Controversy Relating to Death Duties,” Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 15, 1 (1974), 63–84; for the curtailment of Agyeman Prempe’s prerogatives seeT. C. McCaskie, “Ahyiamu—’A Place of Meeting’: An Essay on Process and Event in the History of the Asante State,” Journal of African History, 25, 2 (1984), 169–88; and for summaries of awunnyadee and ayibuadee see ibid., State and Society in Pre-Colonial Asante (Cambridge, 1995), 316–7.

  • 9. KS2, J. E. Bandoh to I. K. Agyeman, dd. Kumase, 3 July 1937. For the early history and membership of AKUS see National Archives of Ghana, Kumase, Unclassified (No. 401 Ash. MP 85/23, incorporating MP No. N12/1920, “Formation of Asante Kotoko Union Society, 24 April to 1 May 1920); and ibid., Unclassified (AK 20/35 Misc. Papers, Correspondence Between AKUS and Others, 1920–35, and CCA Office Papers Concerning the Society).

  • 10. Although the main focus is on land, inheritance in general is usefully discussed in R. S. Rattray, Ashanti (Oxford, 1923), 237–9; for wills (again with the primary focus on land) see G. R. Woodman, Customary Land Law in the Ghanaian Courts (Accra, 1996), 177–9. For a case of precolonial tax evasion of the kind described here see McCaskie, State and Society, 63.

  • 11. KS1, Testimonies of J. E. Bandoh, I. K. Agyeman, Kwame Donkor and Agyeman Kofi Aphram; KS2, J. E. Bandoh to Agyeman Kofi Aphram, dd. Kumase, 8 July 1937. I regret to record that in all the years I knew I. K. Agyeman (d. 1986) I never asked him about his copy of Kofi Sraha’s will, for I was then researching precolonial Asante. In 1937 he testified that he retained his copy. He was not a man to dispose of documents lightly, and perhaps his copy of Kofi Sraha’s will yet survives among his papers.

  • 12. The fullest written evidence is KS2, “A List of Assets of the late Kofi Sraha, prepared and notarized by I. K. Agyeman and S. T. Affainie (Executors)”; the fullest oral evidence is that provided by Willie Sraha Bandoh to Dr. Wilhelmina Donkoh, to whom I record my grateful thanks for leading me through the complex patterns of filiation and marriage linking beneficiaries. These two sources are in broad agreement. The written evidence has unique information on small (but not large) monetary bequests; the oral evidence is strong on kinship matters.

  • 13. KS1 (read into the record by the Registrar of Asantehene’s Divisional Court B).

  • 14. KS1, Testimonies of J. E. Bandoh and Kwame Donkor.

  • 15. KS1, “Your brother” J. E. Bandoh to Kwame Donkor of Besiase-Hiawu via Besiase odekuro, dd. Kumase, 17, 20 and 23 July 1937, and Kwame Donkor to J. E. Bandoh, dd. Kumase, 24 July 1937; KS2, I. K. Agyeman to J. E. Bandoh, dd. Kumase, 25 July 1937.

  • 16. The reconstruction of the court case offered here condenses both KS1 and KS2. All the relevant documents have already been footnoted, with the exception of KS1, “Affidavit of Mr. Badoo, Court Registrar, sworn and entered in evidence on 28 August 1937,” and ibid., “A Family Tree, with Accompanying Notes, sworn and entered by J. E. Bandoh on 28 August 1937.”