What are Adinkra symbols? The symbols were invented by Gyaman King Nana Kwadwo Agyemang Adinkra. He also named them after him. Following Gyaaman's defeat, its use spread from Bono Gyaaman to Asante and other Akan Kingdoms. Here are Adinkra symbols explained in detail to help you understand their significance.
Adinkra is widely used in textiles, logos, and pottery. The symbols serve as aesthetic elements, but they also represent objects that hold emotive ideas about ancient wisdom, life, and the environment. In addition, there are a variety of symbols with varied meanings that are frequently associated with proverbs.
What does the word Adinkra mean?
Adinkra are Ghanaian symbols that express ideas or aphorisms. Adinkra is widely used in textiles, logos, and pottery. They're built into walls and other architectural elements.
What do Adinkra symbols mean?
These symbols represent famous proverbs and maxims. Additionally, they record historical events, express specific behaviours or attitudes related to unique concepts, and depict figures that are related to abstract shapes.
What countries use Adinkra symbols? They originate in West Africa, notably in the countries of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.
Where do Adinkra symbols come from?
They belonged to Asante (Ashanti) people who would print them on metalwork, pottery, and cloth. These people resisted British colonial rule when it arrived in West Africa. This may be the main reason why most of the symbolism and cultural traditions survives until today.
Are you interested in the Adinkra symbols and meanings pdf? The article below covers this topic in detail, which includes Adinkra symbols in PNG format.
How many Adinkra symbols are there?
There are about 122 known symbols.
What are the names of Adinkra symbols?
The following are the Adinkra symbols and their meaning:
The Akan word Aban means "fortress" or "castle." Therefore, it is a symbol of power, authority, and magnificence and a sign of strength.
Having a sense of calm and tranquillity within you helps decrease the impact of the turmoil on the outside, even in the midst of obstacles and hardships.
Peace of mind is essential, and you can obtain it by remaining calm and cool during difficult situations. Adwo is a word that means "quiet." It is a sign of tranquillity, peace, and quiet.
3. Adinkrahene (Chieftain of Adinkra symbols)
Adinkrahene is an African symbol of leadership, greatness and charisma. It has played a critical role in designing other signs. It shows how essential leadership is in any community. Most of the great leaders are charismatic, and therefore this symbol denotes the honourable features of a good leader.
Agyin's gong is a symbol of loyalty, vigilance, and responsibility. They were designed to honour the faithfulness of one Agyin, the Asantehene's diligent servant and gong-beater.
Akoben translates as "battle horn." It represents a call to action, being ready to be called to action, readiness, and voluntarism.
Akofena means "battle sword" and refers to the state ceremonial swords. It is a sign of governmental power, legality, a ruler's legitimised authority, and acknowledgement of bravery and heroic actions. In the top left quadrant of Ghana's coat of arms, one of these ceremonial swords is crossed with a linguist's staff.
7. Akoma Ntoaso
Akoma Ntoaso translates as "the merging of hearts." It may also refer to "joined hearts." It is a symbol of agreement, oneness, unity, or a charter, an extension of the Akoma notion.
Akoma is a symbol of endurance and understanding from the Asante people of modern-day Ghana, and it can be identified as the modern-day standard heart. It denotes love, unity, endurance, patience, tolerance, benevolence, and faithfulness.
Its literal meaning is "the heart." It also represents forbearance in the face of adversity and emphasizes the importance of patience. Akoma symbolises love, benevolence, patience, constancy, tenderness, perseverance, and consistency.
9. Ani Bere A Enso Gya
Ani Bere A Enso Gya is an Akan adage that translates as "No matter how red-eyed one grows (i.e. how serious one becomes), his eyes do not kindle fires." It represents patience, self-control and self-discipline.
10. Ananse Ntontan (Spider’s web)
Ananse Ntontan is a symbol of creativity, complexities of life and wisdom. Creativity is the creation of something new and different. Understanding relates to knowledge, experience and well as reasonable judgement in decision making and taking necessary actions.
11. Asase Ye Duru (Earth has mass)
Asase Ye Duru represents the divinity and the providence of Mother earth. The symbol promotes the importance of the Earth in sustaining the existence of life to every living thing. Therefore, people should not act in a way that they are going to harm the Earth.
12. Aya (Fern)
This symbol depicts endurance, tolerance, and willpower. The fern is known to be a robust plant that grows in harsh climatic conditions. Those who wear this symbol suggests that they have endured many difficulties in life.
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13. Abe Dua (Palm tree)
Abe Dua means palm tree. Therefore, the palm tree is a symbol of wealth, self-sufficiency, and resourcefulness. This is because some products such as oil, brooms, wood, roofing materials, and wine are extracted from it.
14. Akoko Nan (A hen’s leg)
Akoko Nan is one of the Adinkra symbols that represents discipline and caring. Like the name suggests, a hen tramp on its chick but can not kill them. In addition, the emblem portrays the protective and caring nature of parents.
15. Bese Saka (A bag of cola nuts)
Bese Saka represents power, togetherness, plenty, abundance, unity, and affluence. The cola nut is a cash crop that played a vital role in the economic life of Ghana. It shows the position of trade and Agriculture in bringing people together.
16. Bi Nka Bi (No one is supposed to bite the other)
Bi Nka Bi represents peace and unity. The image is based on two fish locking on each other's tails. The sign means that people should watch out against any devious acts of provocation or civil strife.
Dame-Dame is the name of a board game played in Ghana. It represents intelligence, innovation, and strategy. The two players start with 14 pawns neatly arranged on one end of the board in Dame dame, which is played on a 9x9 board.
This game demands a great deal of focus and intelligence, and the symbol represents the inventiveness required to play a standard game of Dame Dame.
18. Denkyem (Crocodile)
Denkyem is a symbol of versatility. It shows the ability of a crocodile to survive in water for a long time and still survive outside water. In addition, the sign demonstrates the capability of adapting to the prevailing conditions.
19. Dono Ntoaso
Dono Ntoaso translates as "dono extension" or "the double dono"–two tension talking drums connected. It represents unity, awareness, kindness, praise, rejoicing, and ability.
Dono is a tensile talking drum with animal hide-wrapped strings connecting both ends. The drum is held under the armpit, and the sound it produces is determined by how hard it is grasped. It represents the appellation, praise, goodness, and rhythm.
21. Duafe (Comb)
This symbol depicts cleanliness and beauty (desirable feminine features). It is one of the Ghanaian Adinkra symbols that spotlight the qualities of a woman like care, love, and goodness. The wooden Duafe was used to plait and comb hair, and it was a highly treasured object by Akan women.
22. Dwennimmen (Ram’s horns)
Dwennimmen is a beacon of strength with virtues of humility. For example, it shows how a ram fights aggressively against any rival but will give in humbly to be slaughtered. The symbol means that even strong people should be humble.
23. Eban (Fence)
Eban is an African symbol of love and security. According to the Akan people, a residence that is well secured with a fence is an ideal homestead. The fence represents the protection of the family from external and harmful factors.
24. Epa (Handcuffs)
Epa is a mark of law and justice, captivity, and slavery. It represents the experiences of Africans in the hands of Arabs during the slave trade. It is one of the many Ghanaian symbols that depict oppression. However, this symbol does remind the offenders of the uncompromising nature of law and discourages all forms of slavery.
25. Ese Ne Tekrema (The teeth and the tongue)
Ese Ne Tekrema is a symbol advocating for interdependence and friendship. It shows the interdependence that exists between the teeth and the tongue in the mouth. Sometimes they may conflict, but they need to work together.
The word "fafanto" means "butterfly." The butterfly is a delicate and gentle creature with gorgeous wings that flutter around. The emblem represents the butterfly's essence: fragility, delicacy, and tenderness. It's also comparable to the butterflies' unbridled joy in soaring around without a care in the world.
27. Fawohodie (Freedom)
Fawohodie is a symbol of independence, liberty, and autonomy. In other words, it means that freedom comes with its responsibilities, which is translated in Akan as "Fawodhodie ene obre na enam."
Fihankra represents fraternity, safety, security, completion, and solidarity. Among the Akans, communal living is the norm. "It takes a village to raise a child" is not just a cliche; it is a genuine experience.
In the past, the most severe punishment for a misbehaving member of society was exile.
29. Fofo (Yellow flowed plant)
This emblem denotes envy and jealousy. The moment Fofo's petals drop, they turn into black spiky-like seeds. The nature of the Fofo petals is compared to a jealous man. The Fofo plant wishes that the Gyinantwi seeds turn black is one of the Akan proverbs associated with Fofo.
30. Gye Nyame (Except for God)
Gye Nyame is one of the traditional Ghanaian symbols that shows the power of God. This beautiful and unique symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. However, it is mainly used in decoration and as a reflection of a profoundly religious character.
Hwehwemudua translates as "rod of enquiry," which is a measuring rod. It represents excellence, exceptional quality, perfection, knowledge, and critical thinking.
32. Hye Won Hye (That does not burn)
The symbol denotes endurance and imperishability. Its meaning has been derived from the traditional priests walking barefooted on the fire without getting burned. Its role is to inspire other people to endure and overcome all types of challenges.
33. Kwatakye Atiko
Kwatakye Atiko translates as "the back of Kwatakye's head." It is a symbol of bravery and courage. Gyawu Atiko is another name for this symbol. It is claimed to be the hairdo of Kwatakye, an old Asante war captain.
34. Kramo Bone Amma Yeanhu Kramo Pa
Kramo Bone Amma Yeanhu Kramo Pa translates as "the terrible Muslim makes it impossible to recognize the good." It represents a warning against lying and hypocrisy. This emblem is also known as “Papani amma yeanhu kramo,” which means that the profusion of excellent men made identifying Muslims difficult.
35. Kuronti ne Akwamu
Kuronti and Akwamu are two groups that make up a town or village council. As a result, the sign represents democracy, sharing ideas, and seeking advice.
They may each have their particular interests as two distinct groups, but an acceptable agreement to control the entire is born out of this conflict.
Mako translates as "peppers." It is a symbol of inequity and uneven development. Mako is a shortened variant of the Akan adage "Mako nyinaa mpatu mmere," which means "All peppers (probably on the same branch) do not ripen simultaneously."
This proverb advises the wealthy to assist the less fortunate, with the underlying assumption that circumstances may change and they, too, will require assistance. As the Akans say, “Mmer dane,” or “Time Changes,” any advantage one may have now may not last forever.
37. Mate Masie (What I hear, I keep)
The symbol is a beacon of prudence, knowledge and wisdom. Mate Masie means, "I understand." Therefore, understanding means knowledge and wisdom, but it also denotes the sense of considering what another person has said.
38. Menso Wo Kenten
Menso Wo Kenten translates as "I am not carrying your basket." It represents the industry, self-sufficiency, and economic self-determination.
39. Mpuannum (Five Tufts of hair)
This Adinkra symbol denotes cleverness, loyalty, and a priestly office. It is said to be a priestesses' hairstyle. It also shows the faithfulness and devotion that an individual displays when doing the delegated duties.
40. Mpatapo (Knot of pacification /reconciliation)
This Adinkra symbol is a representation of pacification, peacemaking and reconciliation. It denotes the knot or bond that brings together different parties in a dispute to a harmonious and peaceful reconciliation.
Mframadan translates as "well-ventilated dwelling." A symbol of fortitude and willingness to tackle life's ups and downs.
The Akan house is not only well ventilated, but it is also resilient, able to survive the perils of storms, rain, and tropical heat.
42. Mmere Dane
Mmere Dane translates as "times change." It represents the fleeting nature of good events.
Because good things do not last, the fortunate should not brag; similarly, bad things do not last, so the less fortunate should not quit up. Because no state is permanent, man should be humble, cooperative, and optimistic in all his endeavours.
43. Nea Onnim
Nea Onnim translates as "He who does not know." It is derived from the Akan saying "Nea onnim no sua an ohu," which translates as "When one who does not know learns."
44. Nea Ope Se Obedi Hene (He who desires to be king)
Nea Ope Se Obedi Hene is a beacon of leadership and service. It means that anyone who wants to be a leader must have learnt how to serve.
Nkonsonkonson translates as "chain." It is a symbol of community and unity and is mentioned in Akan proverbs about unity.
Nsaa is a kind of woven fabric. It is a mark of excellence, genuineness, and authenticity, like in the Akan saying "Nea onnim nsaa na oto n'ago," which means "He who does not know excellent nsaa will buy the counterfeits."
The uncritical and inexperienced and those uneducated in quality principles may not differentiate the real from the counterfeit, but not the wise. They can detect quality from a long distance.
The Akan word for "star" is Nsoromma. It means "child of the heavens." It is a symbol of faith and the belief in divine patronage and reliance on a higher power.
The Akan term for "understanding" is Nteasee. It is an African symbol that represents understanding and cooperation.
49. Nyame Biribi Wo Soro
This sign means "God; there is something in the heavens," symbolising hope and inspiration.
This Adinkra is a prayer to God for a wish to be granted. The Akans believe that God is in the heavens, listening to their prayers, blessing them, and watching them. They also think he is present to see that his intentions on Earth are carried out.
50. Nyame Nwu Na Mawu
Nyame Nwu Na Mawu translates as "God will not die for me to die." It is a symbol showing faith in God to maintain one's soul, expressing the immortality of the human soul.
To state that God will not die for me to die is to assert that the only way I can fail is for God to die; yet, since God's immortality is a given, this also means I cannot break.
51. Nkyimu (The crossed divisions made on Adinkra cloth before stamping)
This symbol is a beacon of precision and skillfulness. The artisans start by blocking the Adinkra cloth with lines in a rectangular grid using a broad tooth comb. The process happens before stamping it with symbols. This technique symbolises the preparations to be made to get high-quality products. The emblem represents those people who are innovative in life.
52. Nyame Dua (God’s tree/altar)
The symbol denotes God's existence and guardianship. What is Nyame Dua? It is a unique pot used to perform rituals. First, the pot is crafted from a tree with three conjoined branches. Then it is used to hold herbs, water and any other symbolic material used during blessings and purification rituals.
53. Nyame Nti (By God’s grace)
This symbol represents trust and faith in God. Many cultures consider that stalk represents the staff of life. The whole plant reminds the Akan people that God's food is essential for nourishment, and humans could not survive without it.
54. Nyansapo (Wisdom knot)
Nyansapo denotes patience, intelligence, ingenuity and wisdom. It means that a wise person can easily know the best means to use in attaining a goal. Being wise indicates broad knowledge, experience, and learning.
55. Okuafo Pa
The words Okafor (farmer) and pa (good) are combined to make the phrase "good farmer." A good farmer is conscientious and dedicated.
Farming necessitates a high level of devotion to the task if you want a plentiful harvest, and at the end of the day, farmers strive for a large harvest, therefore they must be dedicated to their work. It represents tenacity, hard effort, and entrepreneurship.
56. Osram Ne Nsoromma (The Moon and the Star)
The symbol represents love, unity, and harmony. It signifies the critical importance of a bond that exists between a man and a woman. The Adinkra proverbs "Kyekye pe aware" means that the North star represents deep love for marriage. It is always in the sky, waiting for the moon to return. Thus, the symbol represents how a woman always waits for the return of her husband.
57. Okodee Mmowere (The talons of the eagle)
Okodee Mmowere shows power, bravery, and strength. The sign means that the eagle is the most powerful bird in the sky, and it gets its strength from its talons. This symbol is usually used by the Oyoko clan as their clan emblem.
58. Owuo Atwedee (The ladder of death)
The symbol denotes mortality. It reminds the people of the transitory nature of existence on this Earth. Therefore the logo emphasises the importance of living a great life to remain a meaningful soul after this life.
59. Pempamsie (Sew in readiness)
The symbol represents steadfastness, hardness, and readiness. The design of this symbol resembles the link of a chain. It shows the power through unity and the importance of being always prepared.
60. Sankofa (Return and get it)
The emblem is characterised by a bird retracing its steps to get a lost egg. The Adinkra symbols Sankofa means that it is not taboo to collect what has been left behind. Therefore, each experience in this life should leave an individual wiser than it met them. If the incident was not good, a person should learn how to deal with such situations in the future.
61. Wawa Aba (Seed of the Wawa tree)
The emblem signifies toughness, perseverance, and hardship. The seed of the Wawa tree is very hard. In Akan culture, the symbol represents someone strong. Therefore, this symbol inspires an individual who is passing through hardships in life.
62. Wo Nsa Da Mu A (If your hands are in the dish)
This Adinkra symbol is a beacon of participatory government, pluralism, and democracy. It means that if you have already put your hands in the container, people will not eat everything and leave nothing for you.
Above are Adinkra symbols explained in detail to help you understand their significance. Many Ghanaians still use these symbols in their daily lives. Read through the above list before purchasing Adinkra clothing, jewellery, or accessories to learn about their significance.
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