Sankofa Presentation

We began another term discussing semiotics and how we analyse different signs. We conducted research on how we communicate with signs and identifying a sign’s purpose.

We all chose objects that relates to us. The object should represent a personal, social, religious or cultural meaning. My object is a piece of jewellery which was giving to me by my parents from a previous vacation. My object is not a religious symbol, but a cultural representation of my ‘responsibility’ as a human being.

Bird Symbol for Sankofa

In the Akan language of Ghana ‘Sankofa’ translates in English to “go back and get it”. The symbol of importance of learning from the past. I have West Indian heritage however I explore significant facts based on life before slavery and Ancestral Language. The Akan people of Ghana use an Adinkra symbol to represent this same idea and one version of it is similar to the eastern symbol of a heart, and another version is that of a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back. It symbolizes one taking from the past what is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge. Adinkra symbols are used by the Akan people to express proverbs and other philosophical ideas.

Sankofa is an African philosophy that promotes moving forward while looking back to your roots for guidance. this idea with a bird who flies forward, symbolizing progress, while looking back, symbolizing a connection to roots. The egg, unhatched, symbolizes future possibility. Color is important. The symbol is usually colored black to symbolize african history. However, some people represent this symbol using other colors like Red which symbolizes pride and strength and Blue which symbolises Peace and Tranquility. Others have used Akinkra symbols to show repetitive patterns for clothings and decorations.

Akinkra Textiles

Man wearing Akinkra symbols


Akinkra Symbols 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.

Sankofa bird with other Adinkra symbols

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. The symbol of sankofa has become a worldwide icon. Not only for those of african ancestry but others from different ethnic backgrounds have adapted the concept of knowing the past to survive in the future.

The Sankofa Heart is a symbol of love, patience, and endurance.


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