African Symbols: Adinkra
The Adinkra symbols were originally designed by “Asante” Craftsment of Ghana, West Africa.
The symbols embody non-verbal communicative and aesthetic values, as well as the way of life of the people who designed them.
The symbols are usually printed on cotton fabric to produce “Adinkra cloths,” which may be worn on such celebrative occasions as child naming, community durbars and funerary rituals.
Each of the symbols has its Asante name and an accompanying literal English translation.
ADINKRAHENE – “chief of adinkra symbols” greatness, charisma, leadership
This symbol is said to have played an inspiring role in the designing of other symbols. it signifies the importance of playing a leadership role.
AKOFENA – “sword of war” courage, valor
The crossed swords were a popular motif in the heraldic shields of many former Akan states. In addition to recognizing courage and valor, the swords can represent legitimate state authority.
AKOKONAN – “the leg of a hen” mercy, nurturing
The full name of this symbol translates to “The hen treads on her chicks, but she does not kill them.” This represents the ideal nature of parents, being both protective and corrective. An exhortation to nurture children, but a warning not to pamper them.
AKOMA – “the heart” patience & tolerance
According to Agbo, when a person is said to “have a heart in his stomach,” that person is very tolerant. Akoma symbolizes the heart and asks for patience and endurance. “Nya-akoma”, or “take heart.”
AYA – “fern” endurance, resourcefulness
Aya symbolizes the fern. It also means “I am not afraid of you.” A symbol of defiance.
BI NKA BI – “no one should bite the other” peace, harmony
BOA ME NA ME MMOA WO -“help me and let me help you” cooperation, interdependence
DAME-DAME – name of a board game intelligence, ingenuity
DENKYEM – “crocodile” adaptability
The crocodile lives in the water, yet breathes the air, demonstrating an ability to adapt to circumstances.
DUAFE – “wooden comb” beauty, hygiene, feminine qualities
DWENNIMMEN -“ram’s horns” humility and strength
The ram will fight fiercely against an adversary, but it also submits humbly to slaughter, emphasizing that even the strong need to be humble.
EBAN – “fence” love, safety, security
EPA – “handcuffs” law, justice, slavery
You are the slave of him whose handcuffs you wear.
ESE NE TEKREMA – “the teeth and the tongue” friendship, interdependence
The teeth and the tongue play interdependent roles in the mouth. They may come into conflict, but they need to work together.
See also: http://afroetic.com/adinkra-symbols/