The Adinkra symbols of Ghana

The Akan tribe of Ghana is a very eloquent group. Their ways of communication are diverse and intriguing. The talking drums, the Adowa dance and even the colour choices of the kente are all unique, however, the most outstanding of these communication channels is the symbolic route. The Adinkra symbols peddled on the internet as “West African” symbols are 100% Ghanaian just like the kente cloth. The word adinkra is derived from the expression in Twi with means to bid farewell or to part ways (Di nkra).

Paragraphs of deep thinking are communicated with a single artistically designed symbol. Some of the adinkras are abstract but many can be deciphered from close inspection of the artwork. They record and propagate observations made by ancestors and survival wisdom for their lineage. To the unschooled observer, they are artistically crafted African art, and this article aims to introduce some carefully selected symbols and explain their meaning in the easiest possible way.

The Adinkrahene translates into “King of the adinkra”. It can be presented as the premier symbol. Like any king, it symbolises leadership and greatness. It acknowledges sovereign authority of all manner of leadership and the need for subjects respect. The circular nature depicts the omnipotence and sanctity of God the creator. the multi concentric circular design depicts the diversity of Gods manifestations.

The Adinkrahene can be used to represent iconic leaders and inspire people to the role. It represents greatness and the great responsibility this comes with. The design inspires many of the other symbols showing the role Akans ascribe to God in all aspects of life.

Gye Nyame: This symbol literally means “unless God… “. Unless God permits, unless God intervenes, unless God blesses, etc. it acknowledges the limited power of man and the supremacy of God. It is our version of the English expression ” with God all things are possible”. This symbol is used to highlight when a person appears to overrate their own strength and importance. It symbolises human mortality. It allows elders to teach humility to the youth. It is one of the most popular symbols and can be ound adoning jewellery, textiles and all manner of hanaian inspired art.

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