Fihankra is an enclosed or secured compound house. It is a symbol of brotherhood, safety, security, completeness, and solicarity.
Communal living among the Akans is the default. “It takes a village to raise a child” is not just figuratively true but literally lived. The underlying concept is that of the common humanity of all mankind. In the olden days, the severest punishment for an offending member of society was banishment. The expression is “twa n’asu” to wit, “Cast him across the river.” To do that is to ostracize the person, publicly repudiating his action to deter others.
Safety and security come at a cost and every citizen must be raised and equipped to contribute to his quota. One entrance and one exit for the compound house guarantees that the movement of members of the society are public knowledge. This facilitates the socialization and integration of every member of the household into the family unit, and, by extention, the broader society as there is a societal check on people’s behavior.
Further, this architecture ensures that there is interaction as people cannot go to and fro without encountering others.
It also reduces the probability of breaches–the single source of of weakness can be carefully guarded. Besides, the safety in numbers works to the advantage of the household. You are unlikely to be attacked or robbed if you live in a traditional compound house–there’s always someone to come to your rescue. Neither will you go hungry if you a a well-integrated member of society.
- The meaning of the symbol was taken from The Adinkra Dictionary by W. Bruce Willis.