There was a time where I would constantly see Adinkra symbols without understanding the deeper meaning behind them. For example, I ate at Sankofa without the slightest clue that Sankofa means “return and get it” emphasizing the importance of learning from the past.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to participate in a New Orleans service trip where I gained so much valuable information about the cultural significance of Adinkra symbols. Adinkra symbols can be found anywhere from patterned cloth, to jewelry and different advertising logos. It is a set of intricate cultural designs that have various deeper meanings and can communicate expressive messages representing a person’s life.
Originally created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, Adinkra symbols represented concepts and original thoughts. “Adinkra” means goodbye in Twi, the language of the Asantes. Initially, spiritual leaders of the Asantes and royalty only wore Adinkra cloth at funeral services. Today it can be worn by anyone for any occasion however, the symbols and their meanings are still used to convey messages.
This is an example of an Adinkra symbol
Gye Nyame –“Except for God”
This symbol represents the supremacy of God.
It a reminder that one should fear nothing but God, our creator. It is one of the most popular Adinkra symbols for use in decoration, which shows the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian citizens.
In New Orleans I was fortunate enough to purchase a beautiful bag from The Community Book Center (click here to visit their website) and the Gye Nyame Adinkra symbol was incorporated into the fabric! My bag means the world to me and I am now able to appreciate its cultural significance.