The Adinkra symbols of West Africa were created and developed by the Asante people of Ghana. The country of Ghana is a beautiful West African country on the Atlantic, situated between Cote d’Ivoire and Togo. The Adinkra symbols are associated with rich African traditions dating back to around the 16th century.
The meanings of these symbols are derived from inspirational proverbs, human attitudes and beliefs, concepts related to abstract shapes, cultural meanings as well as other historical events and religious beliefs. They are still widely used to this day to convey a specific message through a wide range of products and crafts including Adinkra cloths, clothing accessories, home décor items, architecture and more.
These beautiful symbols are believed to be traced back to the Gyaaman clans of what is presently the Ivory Coast. At that time, the Adinkra symbols were only used during important ceremonies such as funerals and religious celebrations. They were the exclusive rite of the most important people like spiritual leaders and royalty. Eventually the symbols were adopted by the neighboring Asante people who incorporated their own culture, philosophies and beliefs as they further developed the symbols into what they are today.
Although, the symbols are no longer used as solely an exclusive rite by religious leaders and royalty, they still have significant meanings for the people that use them. They are a major influence in African Art to this day, and can be found in wood carvings, traditional mudcloths, furniture and other mediums. Below are a few of my favorite Adinkra symbols along with their meanings. To see pictures of these symbols as well as a complete Adinkra index, please click the following link Adinkra Symbols
GYE NYAME “except for God” symbol of the supremacy of God This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is by far the most popular for use in decoration, a reflection on the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian people.
ADINKRAHENE “Chief of the adinkra symbols” symbol of greatness, charisma and 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.
HYE WON HYE “that which does not burn ” symbol of imperishability and endurance This symbol gets its meaning from traditional priests that were able to walk on fire without burning their feet, an inspiration to others to endure and overcome difficulties.