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Racial Conditions   Adinkra Symbols


he Adinkra symbols displayed below are part of a rich tradition.

They were developed by the Ashante people of West Africa and can be traced back to the 17th century.

Initially, clothes adorned with Adinkra symbols were only worn during ceremonies to honor the dead. The symbols worn on the mourner's clothing expressed the qualities s/he attributed to the deceased.

Over time, the number of symbols grew. In modern times, they have been used for every-day wear, as well as for special occasions.

The symbols are created by cutting a stamp out of the thick skin of a calabash gourd. The stamp is dipped in dye, made from tree bark, and then repeatedly pressed onto cloth to create patterns.

Adinkra cloth provides a remarkable display of the values of the Ashante people, developed over many generations. The tradition continues to flourish in Ghana, today.

Each symbol, in the index of Adinkra symbols below, provides links to a location in the site where the symbol is used to illustrate a value or quality.

The total number of Adinkra symbols continues to grow. Only a small sampling is contained here.

An excellent book on Adinkra Symbols is The Adinkra Dictionary by W. Bruce Willis. The Pyramid Complex, PO Box 21212, Washington, D.C. 20009 — (202) 238-9069

  Agyindawaru: Literally: "the gong of Agyin." The king of the Ashante had a servant named Agyin who was a devoted servant. The symbol is named after him. Agyin sounded a gong to announce special events.
  Akoma Ntoaso: Literally: "the joined or united hearts," perhaps because of an agreement between the parties or individuals. Also, the bonding that occurs after a disagreement or midunderstanding, when the parties make amends.
  Aya: Literally: "the fern." It symbolizes a versatile and resourceful person, able to function on many levels and able to withstand difficulties.
  Damedame: Literally: "the checkerboard game." A symbol of craftiness, intelligence and strategy. A board game played almost like chess or checkers.
  Funtummireku-Denkyemmireku Literally: "a two-headed crocodile with a common stomach." Symbol of the oneness of the human family despite cultural differences. A need for unity, especially where people share one destiny.
  Gye Nyame: Literally: "except God." Symbol of the omnipotence of God. One should always have confidence in one's abilities to do things, except what God forbids.
  Hwehwemudua: Literally: "a measuring rod." Symbol of excellence, superior quality, perfection, knowledge and critical examination.
  Mfrmadan: Literally: "wind-resistant house." Symbol of fortitude, excellence and preparedness. A readiness to face the storms of life.
  Nyame Biribi Wo Soro: Literally: "God, there is something in the heavens!" Symbol of hope and inspiration.
  Nyame Nti: Literally: "By God's Grace." Symbol of faith and trust in God. The symbol depicts a stalk of wheat. It symbolizes that people could not survive without the food God has provided.
  Odo Nyera Fie Kwan: Literally: "Love does not get lost on its way home." Symbol of love devotion and faithfulness.
  Owuo Atwedee: Literally: "The ladder of death will be climbed by all." The rungs of the ladder are representative of the stages of life. Death is inevitable and inescapable.
  Sankofa: Literally: "Go back to fetch it." Gaining wisdom from the past to build for the future.
  Wawa Aba: Literally: "The seeds of the wawa tree." The wawa tree has very hard seeds. Symbol of hardiness, toughness and perseverance.

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Racial Conditions   Adinkra Symbols