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Description of Sankofa

The Sankofa Adinkra symbol depicts a mythical bird with its head turned in the opposite direction as its feet, which are firmly planted in front of it. The Akan people of Ghana are the originators of the word “Sankofa.” This phrase comes from the Akan language and its literal translation is “to go back and get it.” The Sankofa is a symbol of the Akan people’s pursuit of knowledge, with the implication that this pursuit is founded on critical analysis, intelligent investigation, and patient deliberation. People look to the Adinkra symbol to be reminded of the significance of gaining wisdom from one’s experiences in the past in order to have a more successful future.

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Adinkra main description

Adinkra Symbols The Adinkra symbols come from West Africa, specifically a region that is modern-day Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The symbols belonged to the Asante (or Ashanti) peoples, who would print them on cloth, as well as pottery and metalwork. The Asante people resisted British colonial rule when it arrived in West Africa. It may be for this reason that much cultural tradition and symbolism survives to this day. The word ‘adinkra’ means ‘farewell’ or ‘goodbye’ in the Twi language, spoken by the Asante people. For this reason, Adinkra cloth was worn often on special occasions, particularly funerals. The Adinkra symbols are closely tied to the history, beliefs and traditions of the Asante people. Each symbol represents a small number of simple concepts, meaning that Adinkra cloth would traditionally be printed using bespoke patterns, telling a story about the wearer that could be read by those knowledgeable enough to understand the underlying symbolism. The Adinkra symbols, and their meanings, have survived to the present day. Cloth displaying Adinkra symbols is now mass-produced in bright colors, using modern techniques and is very popular both in Africa and the wider world. This is not to say that the traditional weaving and printing methods have died out. It is still possible to find Adinkra cloth that has been made by hand, printed using natural inks and traditional techniques.

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