Adinkra symbols are visual symbols, usually in black and white, that represent proverbs, aphorisms and popular sayings of the Akans. Though the symbols are still important in Akan culture, they have also received global recognition, expanding their use beyond imprints in cloth for ceremonial events.
This project is an attempt to gather notes and facts on Adinkra symbols from various places. The research uses various resources, some of which are rather obscure. The major sources are listed below.
Some of the images were taken from the Kasahorow Adinkra Library which provides high quality images of about thirty Adinkra symbols.
This project also includes some Akan proverbs in Twi with English interpretations and other commentary.
The proverbs reveal the philosophy of the Akan people, who are a heterogeneous mixture of various ethnic groups.
Links for Exploring Adinkra
There are many resources online for people who want to learn about Adinkra.
In my research on Adinkra, I have discovered many things that are not captured in official, formal, or what one might call reliable or respectable sources. However, given the dearth of easily-accessible information on Adinkra and Ghanaian culture in general, it is useful to have such sources as they provide inspiration, useful perspectives, and leads to more reliable sources.
The foregoing is not to say there are no reliable sources below. It just means that, for each link, you should do your own homework on whether you should trust it.
Solomon’s knot, a Celtic knot, is important in the discussion of the Adinkra symbol Papani amma yeanhunu kramo or Kramo bɔne amma yeanhunu kramo pa.
According to the link above, Solomon’s knot can be found in most major civilizations albeit with different meanings. They also claim that because the links in the knot have no beginning nor end they should represent eternity or immortality; and because they are intertwined they should represent love. This is a sharp deviation from the Akan interpretation of the symbol which emphasizes a comparison of the two links. Whichever interpretation of the symbol in the Akan culture you choose—whether papani… or kramo bɔne…, the emphasis in Akan is the similarity or contrast between the two links, an idea Ancient Symbols overlooks.
Somewhere between 1998 and 2008 a very authoritative web site on Akan art was hosted at www.marshall.edu/akanart. It featured notes on Akan art as used in architecture, metal castings, textiles, wood carvings, and pottery. However, the university has reorganized its website and all the pages under that project have disappeared. The only place I have found them are in the Web Archive linked above. This is a very unfortunate development that should be rectified by Marshall University as soon as possible.
The site was based on in-depth research by George F. Kojo Arthur and Robert Rowe and contained information that is hard to find anywhere else.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover VIP Consulting’s web page on Adinkra because it featured some of the more obscure Adinkra symbols. For example, it was there that I discovered the Adinkra symbol Nteasee and a few others.
Though the writer does not cite his sources, his collection of fifteen symbols is a good starting point for further work.
This site is currently the definitive guide for all things Adinkra. Jean MacDonald has done a good job of compiling about seventy Adinkra symbols with pictures and useful comments.
Many other commentaries and articles on Adinkra use this resource without attribution, leading to the problem where one expects to find new information only to find a rehashing of MacDonald.
Is it an indictment of Ghanaians that the most authoritative voice on this aspect of Ghanaian culture is not Ghanaian?