Being introduced to Adinkra as a resource for symbols and aphorisms is akin to finding a treasure trove, particularly for someone who’s into collecting African Tribal art and has a penchant for tattoos. Adinkra is used primarily by the Ashante and the Baule in fabric and pottery design. It’s popularity stems from an old Ghanaian cloth dyeing process, and the oldest existing Adinkra cloth is dated around 1817, so it probably means Adinkra has been around at least since the 18th century.

Here are a few examples and explanations behind a few of the more popular symbols (source: Adinkra paper).

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“Except God”

‘Gye Nyame’ meaning ‘except God’ is a symbol that reflects the supremacy and dominion of God over all creation. God is regarded therefore as the omnipotent and omnipresent being, the giver of life. (Note: My thinking is this translates better as “but for God” vs “excluding God”).

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The adinkra symbol ‘Aya (fern)’ refers to a hardy plant which has the ability to withstand all weather conditions and soil types symbolizing endurance in all aspects of human endeavours.


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Sesa wo suban (or Sesa woruban(?)) …. The “Change or transform your character ” symbol of “life transformation” combines two separate adinkra symbols, the “Morning Star” which can mean a new start to the day, placed inside the wheel, representing rotation or independent movement. (source)

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‘Kintinkantan’ (Extravagant and puffed up)

This is a symbol of extravagance and arrogance. It serves as a warning against boastfulness and disregard for other people.


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‘Sankofa’ (Go back and take)

It’s a symbol of positive reversion and revival.

This symbol teaches the wisdom in learning from the past (love this), which helps in building the future. It also teaches people to cherish and value their culture and avoid its adulteration.


The screenshot/photo link following is a good resource with lots of symbols and explanations:

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African Tribes, Demographics, & The Slave Trade Map

Information on African Tribes – Demographics, Politics, Religion, History, Economy, Tribal Art, Neighboring Tribes, Culture, Language.

Aka Akan Akuapem Akye Anyi Aowin
Asante Babanki Baga Bali Bamana Bamileke
Bamum Bangubangu Bangwa Baule Beembe Bembe
Benin Kingdom Berber (Amazigh) Bete Bidyogo Biombo Bobo
Bushoong Bwa Cameroon Grasslands Chokwe Dan Dengese
Diomande Djenn� Dogon Ejagham Eket Ekoi
Esie Fang Fante Fon Frafra Fulani
Guro Hausa Hemba Holoholo Ibibio Idoma
Igala Igbira Igbo Igbo Ukwu Ijo Kabre
Karagwe Kassena Katana Kom Kongo Kota
Kuba Kurumba Kusu Kwahu Kwele Kwere
Laka Lega Lobi Luba Luchazi Luluwa
Lunda Luvale Lwalwa Maasai Makonde Mambila
Mangbetu Manja Marka Mbole Mende Mitsogo
Mossi Mumuye Namji (Dowayo) Ngbaka Nkanu Nok
Nuna Nunuma (Gurunsi) Ogoni Oron Owo Pende
Pokot Punu Salampasu San Sapi Senufo
Shambaa Shona Songo Songye Suku Swahili
Tabwa Tuareg Urhobo We Winiama Wodaabe
Wolof Woyo Wum Yaka Yaure Yombe
Yoruba Zaramo Zulu


Destinations of Slaves and their Origins

Senegambia (Senegal-Gambia) * 5.8%
Sierra Leone 3.4%
Windward Coast (Ivory Coast) * 12.1%
Gold Coast (Ghana) * 14.4%
Bight of Benin (Nigeria) * 14.5
Bight of Biafra (Nigeria) * 25.1%
Central and Southeast Africa (Cameroon-N. Angola) * 24.7%
SENEGAMBIA: Wolof, Mandingo, Malinke, Bambara, Papel, Limba, Bola, Balante, Serer, Fula, Tucolor
SIERRA LEONE: Temne, Mende, Kisi, Goree, Kru.
WINDWARD COAST (including Liberia): Baoule, Vai, De, Gola (Gullah), Bassa, Grebo.
GOLD COAST: Ewe, Ga, Fante, Ashante, Twi, Brong
BIGHT OF BENIN & BIGHT OF BIAFRA combined: Yoruba, Nupe, Benin, Dahomean (Fon), Edo-Bini, Allada, Efik, Lbibio, Ljaw, Lbani, Lgbo (Calabar)
CENTRAL & SOUTHEAST AFRICA: BaKongo, MaLimbo, Ndungo, BaMbo, BaLimbe, BaDongo, Luba, Loanga, Ovimbundu, Cabinda, Pembe, Imbangala, Mbundu, BaNdulunda
Other possible groups that maybe should be included as a “Ancestral group” of African Americans:
Fulani, Tuareg, Dialonke, Massina, Dogon, Songhay, Jekri, Jukun, Domaa, Tallensi, Mossi, Nzima, Akwamu, Egba, Fang, and Ge.



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