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Adinkra Symbols

Origins and History

Adinkra are small symbols from West Africa, originally created by the Gyaman people, in what is now the present day country of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire in western Africa. The term Adinkra came from the legendary king of the Gyaman, Nani kofi Adinkra, who wore clothes with colorful patterns made up of symbols with special meanings.

King Adinkra was defeated and captured in battle by the ancient Asante people for having copied the "Golden Stool". The Golden Stool is the Asante royal throne which was said to have descended from the heavens and landed on the lap of the first Asante king, and represents absolute power and tribal cohesion. King Adinkra was killed, his territory annexed by the neighboring Asante kingdom, and the patterns on his clothes were taken by the Asante as their own.

Creating Adinkra Symbols

Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history and beliefs of the Asante, and usually have a rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play an important role in their culture. Designs were originally made by cutting a pattern in a calabash gourd, and then stamping the print on a piece of colorful fabric. The deep brown ink originally used, adinkra aduru, is created by boiling the bark of the Badie tree with scraps of iron. Adinkra symbols continue to evolve to this day depicting historical events, technological improvements, and changes to Ghanaian culture.

Ancient and Modern Day Uses

Bidding Farewell

Adinkra can be literally translated to "good bye", or "farewell" in Asante Twi, a language spoken in Ghana by approximately 15 million people. At one time, Adinkra cloth and symbols were only worn and displayed during funerals. The symbols signified their sorrow and acted as a way to bid farewell to the deceased.

Modern Day Usage

Nowadays, Adinkra is not exclusively won by the Asante people, and is worn at a variety of social gatherings and special occasions, such as weddings, festivals, and naming ceremonies. The symbols have been used to decorate accessories other than cloth by artists, carpenters and architects. Throughout Ghana and elsewhere, Adinkra can be seen on fabrics, walls, pottery, and even corporate logos.

Adinkra Symbols and Translation
Symbol Akan Translation Literal Meaning Symbolic Meaning Proverb
Symbol Akan Translation Literal Meaning Symbolic Meaning Proverb
Aban: Adinkra Symbol of Strength and Authority Aban Fence Strength and Authority  
Abe Dua: Adinkra Symbol of Wealth, Self-Sufficiency, Vitality Abe Dua Palm Tree Wealth, Self-Sufficiency, Vitality Nipa nye abe dua na ne ho ahyia ne ho; The human being is not like the palm that is selfsufficient.

Nnua nyinaa bewu agya abe; All trees will wither safe the palm tree.
Adikrahene Dua: Adinkra Symbol of Greatness, Royalty Adikrahene Dua Adinkra King Stamp Greatness, Royalty  
Adinkrahene: Adinkra Symbol of Greatness, Royalty Adinkrahene Adinkra King. Chief of all the Adinkra designs; Forms the basis of Adinkra printing Greatness, Royalty  
Adwera: Adinkra Symbol of Purity, Sanctity, Chastity, Good Fortune, Consecration, Cleanliness Adwera Watery Shrub Purity, Sanctity, Chastity, Good Fortune, Consecration, Cleanliness Adwera nsuo, wo ne nkwansuo, nsu korogyenn a wohuru nso wonhye; Water of life, you are the pure crystal clean water that boils but, does not burn.
Adwo: Adinkra Symbol of Peace, Calmness Adwo Peace Peace, Calmness Ohene nya ahontenafo pa a, ne bere so dwo; When the king has good counselors, then he will have a peaceful reign.
Agyinduwura: Adinkra Symbol of Faithfulness, Alertness, Dutifulness Agyinduwura   Faithfulness, Alertness, Dutifulness  
Akoben: Adinkra Symbol of Vigilance, Call to Arms, Readiness and Preparedness for action of battle. Akoben War Horn; The sound of Akoben is a battle cry. Vigilance, Call to arms, Readiness and Preparedness for action or battle.  
Akofena: Symboil of Courage, Valor Akofena Sword of War Courage, Valor  
Akokonan: Adinkra Symbol of Parenthood, Care, Tenderness, Protection, Mercy, Nurturing, Parental Discipline Akokonan The Leg of a Hen Parenthood, Care, Tenderness, Protection, Mercy, Nurturing, Parental Discipline Akoko nan tia ba, na ennkum no; The hen treads upon its chicks but it does not intend to kill them.
Akoma: Adinkra Symbol of Patience, Tolerance, Love and Faithfulness Akoma The Heart Patience, Tolerance, Love and Faithfulness Nya Akoma; Take heart.
Akoma Ntoso: Adinkra Symbol of Understanding, Agreement, Unity Akoma Ntoso Linked Hearts Understanding, Agreement, Unity  
Ananse Ntontan: Adinkra Symbol of Wisdom, Creativity Ananse Ntontan Spider Web Wisdom, Creativity  
Ani Bere: Adinkra Symbol of Diligence, Perseverance Ani Bere Seriousness Diligence, Perseverance Ani bere a, nso gya, anka mani abere koo; Seriousness does not show fiery eyes, else you would see my face all red.
Asase Ye Duru: Adinkra Symbol of Divinity of Mother Earth, Providence, Power, Authority, Wealth, Might Asase Ye Duru The Earth has Weight Divinity of Mother Earth, Providence, Power, Authority, Wealth, Might Tumi nyina ne asase; All power emanates from the earth.

Asase ye duru sen epo; The earth is heavier than the sea
Aya: Adinkra Symbol of Defiance, Endurance, Resourcefulness Aya The Fern Defiance, Endurance, Resourcefulness  
Bese Saka: Adinkra Symbol of Affluence, Abundance, Unity Bese Saka Sack of Cola Nuts Affluence, Abundance, Unity  
Bi Nnka Bi: Adinkra Symbol of Peace, Harmony, Caution Against Strife and Provocation Bi Nnka Bi Bite Not One Another Peace, Harmony, Caution Against Strife and Provocation  
Biribi Wo Soro: Adinkra Symbol of Hope Biribi Wo Soro There is something in the Heavens Hope Nyame, biribi wo soro, na ma embeka me nsa; God, there is something in heaven, let it get to me
Boa Me Na Me Boa Wo: Adinkra Symbol of Interdependence, Cooperation Boa Me Na Me Boa Wo Help Me to Help You Interdependence, Cooperation  
Dame Dame: Adinkra Symbol of Intelligence, Ingenuity Dame Dame A Board Game Intelligence, Ingenuity  
Denkyem: Adinkra Symbol of Adaptability Denkyem Crocodile Adaptability  
Dono: Adinkra Symbol of Praise Dono Drum Praise  
Duafe: Adinkra Symbol of Beauty, Hygiene, Feminine Qualities Duafe Wooden Comb Beauty, Hygiene, Feminine Qualities  
Dwannimmen: Adinkra Symbol of Concealment, Humility and Strength, Wisdom and Learning Dwannimmen Ram's Horn Concealment, Humility and Strength, Wisdom and Learning Dwannini ye asisie a, ode n'akorana na...; It is the heart and not the horns that leads a ram to bully.
Eban: Adinkra Symbol of Love, Safety, Security Eban Fence Love, Safety, Security  
Epa: Adinkra Symbol of Slavery, Equality, Law and Justice Epa Handcuffs Slavery, Equality, Law and Justice  
Ese Ne Tekrema: Adinkra Symbol of Frienship, Interdependence, Strength in Unity Ese Ne Tekrema The Teeth and the Tongue Friendship, Interdependence, Strength in Unity  
Fafanto: Adinkra Symbol of Tenderness, Gentleness Fafanto   Tenderness, Gentleness  
Fawohudie: Adinkra Symbol of Freedom, Liberty Fawohudie Freedom Freedom, Liberty  
Fihankra: Adinkra Symbol of Safety, Security Fihankra House Safety, Security  
Fofo: Symbol od Jealousy, Envy Fofo A Yellow-Flowered Plant Jealousy, Envy  
Funtumfunafu Denkyem Funafu: Adinkra Symbol of Democracy, Unity in Diversity Funtumfunafu Denkyem Funafu Siamese Crocodiles Democracy, Unity in Diversity  
Gye Nyame: Adinkra Symbol of Supremacy of God, Omnipotence and Immortality of God Gye Nyame Except for God Supremacy of God, Omnipotence and Immortality of God  
Hwemudua: Adinkra Symbol of Excellence, Superior Quality Hwemudua   Excellence, Superior Quality  
Hye Won Hye: Adinkra Symbol of Imperishability, Endless, Forgiveness, Toughness Hye Won Hye That Which Cannot Be Burnt Imperishability, Endless, Forgiveness, Toughness Hye wonnhye; He who burns be not burned.
Kae Me: Adinkra Symbol of Loyalty, Faithfulness Kae Me Remember Me Loyalty, Faithfulness  
Kete Pa: Adinkra Symbol of Good Marriage, Love, Faithfulness Kete Pa Good Bed Good Marriage, Love, Faithfulness  
Kintinkantan: Adinkra Symbol of Arrogance, Extravagance Kintinkantan Puffed Up Extravagance Arrogance, Extravagance  
Kojo Baiden: Adinkra Symbol of Cosmos, Omnipresence Kojo Baiden Rays Cosmos, Omnipresence  
Kontire Ne Akwamu: Adinkra Symbol of Reliance, Democracy Kontire Ne Akwamu State Elders Reliance, Democracy One head does not make up council.
Krado: Adinkra Symbol of The Court's Authority Krado Seal of Law and Order The Court's Authority  
Kramo Bone: Adinkra Symbol of Warning Against Deception and Hypocracy Kramo Bone The bad make it difficult for the good to be noticed. Warning Against Deception and Hypocrisy  
Kuntinkantan: Adinkra Symbol of Modesty Kuntinkantan Do not boast. Do not be filled with pride. Need for Humility and Service, Modesty  
Kwatakye Atiko: Adinkra Symbol of Valour, Bravery, Leadership Kwatakye Atiko Hair of the Hero Kwatakye Valor, Bravery, Leadership  
Mako Mako      
Mate Masie: Adinkra Symbol of Knowledge, Wisdom Mate Masie I have heard and kept it Knowledge, Wisdom Nyansa bun mu ne mate masie; Deep wisdom comes out of listening and keeping what is heard.
Mframadan: Adinkra Symbol of Fortitude, Preparedness Mframadan Wind-Resistant House Fortitude, Preparedness  
Mmere Dane: Adinkra Symbol of Change, Life's Dynamics Mmere Dane Time Changes Change, Life's Dynamics  
Mmomudwan: Adinkra Symbol of Unity, Togetherness Mmomudwan Unity Unity, Togetherness  
Mmra Krado: Adinkra Symbol of the Court's Authority, Law and Order Mmra Krado Seal of Law and Order The Court's Authority, Law and Order  
Mmusuyidee: Adinkra Symbol of Good Fortune, Sanctity, Spiritual Strength Mmusuyidee That which removes ill luck or evil Good Fortune, Sanctity, Spiritual Strength  
Mpatapo: Adinkra Symbol of Reconciliation, Peacemaking Mpatapo Knot of Reconciliation Reconciliation, Peacemaking  
Mpuannum: Adinkra Symbol of Skillfullness, Priestly Office, Loyalty, Adroitness Mpuannum Five Tufts of Hair Skillfulness, Priestly Office, Loyalty, Adroitness  
Nkonsonkonson: Adinkra Symbol of Unity, Human Relations Nkonsonkonson Chain Links Unity, Human Relations  
Nea Onnim No Sua A Ohu: Adinkra Symbol of Knowledge Nea Onnim No Sua A Ohu He who does not know can know from Learning Knowledge  
Nea Ope Se Nkrofoo Ye Ma Wo No, Ye Saa Ara Ma Won: Adinkra Symbol of Justice Nea Ope Se Nkrofoo Ye Ma Wo No, Ye Saa Ara Ma Won Do to others the things you want them to do to for you. Justice Nea ope se nkrofoo ye ma wo no, ye saa ara ma won; Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.
Nea Ope Se Obedi Hene: Adinkra Symbol of Leadership Nea Ope Se Obedi Hene He Who Wants to be King Leadership  
Nkontim: Adinkra Symbol of Loyalty, Service Nkontim Hair of the Queen's Servant Loyalty, Service  
Nkuma Kese: Adinkra Symbol of Supremacy, Superiority Nkuma Kese The Great Okra Supremacy, Superiority  
Nkyimu: Adinkra Symbol of Skillfulness, Precision Nkyimu The crossed divisions made on Adinkra cloth before printing Skillfulness, Precision  
Nkyinkyim: Adinkra Symbol of Initiative, Toughness, Adaptability, Resoluteness Nkyinkyim Zigzag, Twisting Initiative, Toughness, Adaptability, Resoluteness Obra kwan ye nkyinkyimiie; Life's path is full of ups and downs; twists and turns.
Nnonnowa: Adinkra Symbol of Valour, Strength Nnonnowa Double Drum Valor, Strength  
Nsaa: Adinkra Symbol of Excellence, Genuineness, Authenticity Nsaa Type of hand-woven cloth Excellence, Genuineness, Authenticity Nea onnim nsaa oto n'ago; He who does not know authentic Nsaa will buy the fakes.
Nserewa: Adinkra Symbol of Wealth, Abundance, Affluence Nserewa   Wealth, Abundance, Affluence  
Nsoromma: Adinkra Symbol of Guardianship Nsoromma Child of the Heavens Guardianship  
Nya Abotere: Adinkra Symbol of Patience, Calmness Nya Abotere Be Patient Patience, Calmness  
Nyame Akruma: Adinkra Symbol of Stealth, Righteous Might Nyame Akruma God's Axe Stealth, Righteous Might  
Nyame Biribi Wo Soro: Adinkra Symbol of Hope Nyame Biribi Wo Soro God is in the Heavens Hope  
Nyame Dua: Adinkra Symbol of God's Presence, Protection Nyame Dua Altar of God God's Presence, Protection  
Nyame Nnwu Na Mawu: Adinkra Symbol of Life after Death Nyame Nnwu Na Mawu God never dies, therefore I cannot die Life after Death  
Nyame Nti: Adinkra Symbol of Faith and Trust in God Nyame Nti By God's Grace Faith and Trust in God Nyame nti mi nnwe wura; By God's grace, I will not eat leaves to survive.
Nyame Ye Ohene: Adinkra Symbol of the Majesty and Supremacy of God Nyame Ye Ohene God is King Majesty and Supremacy of God  
Nyansapo: Adinkra Symbol of Wisdom, Ingenuity, Intelligence, Patience Nyansapo Wisdom Knot Wisdom, Ingenuity, Intelligence, Patience  
Odo Nyera Fie Kwan: Adinkra Symbol of Power of Love, Faithfulness Odo Nyera Fie Kwan Love never loses its way home Power of Love, Faithfulness  
Ohene Adwa: Adinkra Symbol of State, Chieftaincy Ohen Adwae The King's Stool State, Chieftaincy  
Ohene: Adinkra Symbol of Wisdom Ohene King Wisdom  
Ohene Aniwa: Adinkra Symbol of Beauty, Vigilance Ohene Aniwa King's Eye Beauty, Vigilance  
Ohene Tuo: Adinkra Symbol of Greatness Ohene Tuo The King's Gun Greatness  
Okodee Mmowere: Adinkra Symbol of Bravery, Strength, Unity Okodee Mmowere Eagle's Talons Bravery, Strength, Unity  
Okuafo Pa: Adinkra Symbol of Hardwork, Entrepreneurship, Industry, Productivity Okuafo Pa Good Farmer Hardwork, Entrepreneurship, Industry, Productivity Okuafoo pa ne obi a oye nsiyefoo, ono na ose : w'afuo so a, woye ne nyinaa; The good and industrious farmer says: No matter how big your farm is you tend it all.
Onyakopon Adom Nti Biribiara Beye Yie: Adinkra Symbol of Hope, Providence, Faith Onyakopon Adom Nti Biribiara Beye Yie By God's grace, all will be well Hope, Providence, Faith  
Onyakopon Aniwa: Adinkra Symbol of Omnipresence of God Onyakopon Aniwa God's Eye Omnipresence of God Onyakopon aniwa hu asumu asem biara; God's eye seees al secrets
Onyakopon Ne Yen Ntena: Adinkra Symbol of God's Presence and Protection Onyakopon Ne Yen Ntena May God be with Us God's Presence and Protection  
Osidan: Adinkra Symbol of Creativity Osidan The Builder Creativity  
Osram: Adinkra Symbol of Patience and Understanding Osram The Moon Patience and Understanding Osram mmfiti preko nntwareman; It takes the moon some time to go round the earth.
Osram Ne Nsoromma: Adinkra Symbol of Love, Faithfulness, Fondness Osram Ne Nsoromma The Moon and the Star Love, Faithfulness, Fondness  
Owo Foro Adobe: Adinkra Symbol of Steadfastness, Prudence, Diligence, Performing the Impossible Owo Foro Adobe Snake Climbing the Palm Tree Steadfastness, Prudence, Diligence, Performing the Impossible  
Owuo Atwedee: Adinkra Symbol of Death, Mortal nature of man, Fate Owuo Atwedee Ladder of Death Death, Mortal nature of man, Fate Owu atwedee obaako nforo; All men shall climb the ladder of death.
Owuo Kum Nyame: Adinkra Symbol of Invincibility of Death, Power of God to Overcome Death Owuo Kum Nyame Death Killed God Invincibility of Death, Power of God to Overcome Death Nyame boo owuo na owuo kum Nyame; na Nyame na ote nanka aduro nti odii owuo so nkonim; God created death and death killed God, yet the Eternal One also created the antidote to the venom of death, and God, therefore, overcame death.
Pa Gya: Adinkra Symbol of War Pa Gya Striking of Fire War  
Mmomudwan: Adinkra Symbol of Unity, Togetherness Pempamsie Sew in Readiness Readiness, Steadfastness, Strength and Unity Pempamsie se, bebebre ahooden ne koroye; That which will not overcome
Sankofa: Adinkra Symbol of Wisdom, Using past experiences to build the future Sankofa Learning From the Past Wisdom, Using past experiences to build the future Se wo were fin a wo sankofa a yennkyi; It is not a taboo to return to fetch something you forgot earlier on.
Sepow: Adinkra Symbol of Justice Sepow Knife Justice  
Sesa Woruban: Adinkra Symbol of Transformation, A New Beginning Sesa Woruban Change your Life Transformation, A New Beginning  
Sunsum: Adinkra Symbol of Spirituality, Purity, Everlasting Sunsum The Soul Spirituality, Purity, Everlasting  
Tabon: Adinkra Symbol of Courage, Hard Work Tabon Paddle Courage, Hard Work  
Tamfo Bebre: Adinkra Symbol of Jealousy Tamfo Bebre The Enemy Shall Suffer Jealousy  
Tumi Te Se Kosua: Adinkra Symbol of the Delicacy of Political Power, Fragility of Democracy, Restraint Tumi Te Se Kosua Power is like an Egg Delicacy of Political Power, Fragility of Democracy, Restraint Tumi te se kosua, woso mu den a, epae; na se woanso mu yie nso a, efiri wo nsa bo famu ma epae; Power is as fragile as an egg, when held too tightly it may break; but if held too loosely, it may fall.
Tuo Ne Akofena: Adinkra Symbol of Power, Responsibility, Authority, Legitimacy, National Security and Protection, Military Prowess Tuo Ne Akofena Gun and State Sword Power, Responsibility, Authority, Legitimacy, National Security and Protection, Military Prowess  
Wawa Aba: Adinkra Symbol of Skillfulness Wawa Aba Seed of the Wawa Tree Skillfulness  
Wo Nsa Da Mu A: Adinkra Symbol of Democracy, Pluralism Wo Nsa Da Mu A If you have your hands in the dish Democracy, Pluralism Wo nsa da mu a, wonni nnya wo; If your hands are in the dish, people do not eat everything and leave you nothing.
Wuforo Dua Pa A: Adinkra Symbol of Support, Cooperation, Encouragement Wuforo Dua Pa A When You Climb a Good Tree Support, Cooperation, Encouragement Wuforo dua pa a na ye pia wo; He who climbs a good tree is encouraged/supported.
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