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Andikra Symbols Tell a Story

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African heritage is rich and deep in culture. One of the most popular parts of the African culture is the Adinkra symbols. Symbols are a visual representation of an idea, spiritual meaning, or emotions.



Although there are many stories on the origin of Adinkra symbols, their significance and meaning in the culture are not debated.  The Adinkra symbols are not just decorative objects on fabric, buildings, or decor, but they convey ancient traditional wisdom about life, philosophical thoughts, and aspects of the environment. Many of the  Adinkra symbols have meanings linked to proverbs and some symbols depict historical events, human behavior and attitudes, animal behavior, plant life, and objects' shapes. These Adinkra symbols were used on ceremonial clothing by royalty for important ceremonies such as funerals and special occasions but are now used more prominently on clothes, jewelry, home décor and were even featured on the costumes in Black Panther.


Adinkras are visual symbols or ideographs that represent concepts and aphorisms originating from the Akan people, the dominant ethnic group of present-day Ghana, and the Ivory Coast located in West Africa.


Designs were originally made by cutting a pattern in a calabash gourd and then stamping the print on a piece of colorful fabric. They boiled the bark of the Badie tree with scraps of iron to get the deep brown ink that was originally used.  If you take a closer look at the symbols, you will see that they were derived from pieces of nature, architecture, and animals. For example, the ripples in a water drop. The "Soul washers" badge is worn by the Ghana priests who conducted the kings' water rituals.

Some of the symbols have meanings linked to proverbs such as the SANKOFA symbol. SANKOFA, in the Twi language, means to “Reach back and get it” in English. To break it down:

San- to return

Ko- to go

Fa- to look/seek/take



Sankofa Symbol. A bird taking an egg off of its back.

The Sankofa symbol is also depicted by the shape of a heart.

The Sankofa symbol  is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not taboo to return to take back what you forgot”   The Sankofa symbol represents the wisdom of learning from the past, to help improve the future. It also encourages people to celebrate and honor their culture and history.

Adinkra symbols tell a story about the culture and its people. Wearing Adinkra symbols is an expression of who you are, your intentions and the messages you want to convey. Although Adinkra symbols are centuries old, they still have meaning and significance today to Africans and the African diaspora.