Adinkra is an Akan word which literally means ‘’Goodbye’’ or ‘’Farewell’’. The Adinkra symbols are visuals which represent concept or aphorism. As an aphorism, it tells and expresses general truth, principle or an astute observation that is either spoken or written in a concise and memorable form. E.g.: GYE NYAME symbol

This symbol means ‘’Except God’’, that is the supremacy of God. He is omnipresent and omnipotent. Literally meaning to fear no one except God.

Over the years, Akans have created and developed different and many Adinkra symbols. These symbols as a terse language go to express concisely, sometimes in an unfriendly manner people’s beliefs, values, morals and norms in their culture. Every society has a language of communication to its people. And for Akans , the adinkra symbols does just that. Like every language, it tells a thought, expresses a truth, fact or an observation in life and society at large to its people. The Adinkra symbols as a language seeks and serves that purpose of communication in our society.

All the Adinkra symbols communicate and express a statement of fact or truth. A look at any adinkra symbol would communicate a meaning, idea or a value to you, if you can only interpret the symbol. Hence telling of the people’s beliefs, attitudes, environment or situation in life. Also some of the symbols tell of folktales, philosophies and the cultures of the Akan people. Because of its unique visuals and designs, in modern times now, it is used and incorporated as creative elements in cotton cloth designs, metal work, pottery, and even sculpture or architecture work.

The symbols are used in making varied items and things in modern art work like jewellery, bags etc. It must be noted however that, these Adinkra symbols stand to remind us, as a people of where we come from, why we do the things we do, how we live, how far we have come and also how we will get to our destinations in this life and in the next as we go along. So the next time you see an Adinkra symbol, ask the meaning and see if there is a truth being told or a fact being represented and how you as an individual will carry out that information given by these visual symbols called the ‘’ADINKRA’’- bidding you ‘’Goodbye’’ or ‘’Farewell’’ in your life’s  journeys.

Here are some of the Adinkra symbols and their meanings:

  1.        HWE MU DUA; the measuring rod or stick. This symbol represents superior quality, excellence, perfection, knowledge and critical examination. To us, it stresses the need to strive for excellence, perfection, knowledge in every endeavour we find ourselves in.

Script ref:

  1.    ADINKRAHENE; chief of the Adinkra This symbol represents greatness, charisma and leadership. This teaches us the importance of leadership role in every society. That we must strive to carve out great leaders from amongst ourselves (society) for development.

Script ref:

  1.  NSOROMMA (the star); child of the heavens/child of God. This symbolises guardianship, faith in God and reflection of God. It reminds us that God is the Father and watches over all people and all things.

Script ref:

  1.    AKOKONAN; the leg of the hen. This represents mercy, nurturing, and discipline. It tells us that just as mother hens steps on it chick and does not die, so also does it receive nurturing and discipline under that same leg. So does God nurtures and disciplines us. He shows mercy towards our sins and forgives us and does not cast us out from under his leg/ wing.

Script ref:

  1.   ME WARE WO; I shall marry you. This symbolises commitment and perseverance. This life is filled with human relationships which require commitment and events that make us persevere. After all is said and done, our commitment to God and man is always tested and our resolve to persevere to the end will show.

Script ref: Genesis 39:8, 22, Psalm 37:5

  1.    NKONSOKONSO; chain link. This represents unity and human relations. It tells us that we cannot do without our fellow human beings. And the only way to perpetuate human relations is unity of mind and purpose.

Script ref: psalm 133:1, Judges 20:11, 1 chronicles 12:17

  1.   NYAME DUA; tree of God. This symbolises God’s protection and presence. God’s presence pervades our existence and so we cannot do without it and for all his creation, he protects and keeps.

Script ref: Genesis 2:9. 3:8

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list.  Thanks so much for reading. I sure would appreciate your feedback and contributions on the subject.

* Th article  was contributed by Joycelyn Mambee Igiri *


Joycelyn Mambee Igiri