gye nyame sankofa sankofa adinkrahene funtunfunefu denkyemfunefu denkyem dwennimmen akoma ntoaso nyame nti nyame biribi wo soro nkinkyim nsoromma bin nka bi akokonan fihankra eban akoben nkonsonnkonson owo foro adobe akoma hwemudua hye wonhye
tamfo bebre duafe mmusuyidee osram ne nsoromma kintinkantan bese saka asase ye duru mpataro nsaa nkyimu sesa woruban epa dame dame ese ne tekrema nyame nnwu na mawu nyansapo odo nnyew fie kwan mate masie fofo owuo atwedee
wawa aba aya nyame dua mframadan nea ope se obedi hene woforo dua pa a wo nsa da mu a boa me na kete pa me ware wo

West African Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols & Meanings

The Tortoise and The Feathers: The Meaning of Sankofa
An E-Mail from Dr. Kwaku Ofori-Ansa



Congratulations for the wonderful work you are doing with our Adinkra symbols. Those of us who initiated the movement in Akan symbolism in the US are always pleased to see how far it is being advanced by others. It is a great tribute to our Great Ancestors, the originators of this wonderful artistic ingenuity. Just as our ancestors have said, a tradition that makes room for a transition is a transition that ever lives on. The adinkra tradition is a tradition that would ever live on because it is making room for adaptation.

I would however take you to task for not remembering and recognizing the past which laid the foundation for your present efforts. As one of the adinkra symbols has aptly expressed, you cannot build a future if you do not recognize those who made the past possible. It is ironical that you are espousing the essence of adinkra wisdom and yet forgetting one of its cardinal principles - recognition of the past. I have read through your website but have not come across an acknowledgment of our ancestors who created these symbol, nor any recognition of earlier scholars whose research work produced the foundations of scholarship on adinkra.

May be this abridged folk tale would adequately convey the lessons of a deliberate attempt to claim ownership of something without recognizing the originators: A tortoise borrowed feathers from birds so that it could fly with the birds to eat fruits on a tree. Once they got on top the tree the tortoise behaved as if the feathers were his own; giving orders to the birds and almost dominating everything on the tree. Soon the birds one by one plucked their feathers and left the tortoise on the tree. You could imagine the rest of the story.

Please give credit to our Akan ancestors of old Gyaman, the ancestors of the town of Ntonso and such earlier adinkra research scholars as R.S. Rattray (1920s) Dr. A.A. Kyerematen, Kofi Antubam, Prof. Quacoo, Professor Ablade Glover, Nana Owusu-Ansah, Mr. Niagoran_Bouah of Ivory Coast, Dr. Kwaku Ofori-Ansa, and Dr. Kojo Arthur, all who have produced significant scholarship on adinkra and gave you the foundation for the good work you have embarked on. All of them did recognize the work of those who came before them. You should do same, if you are to live up to the essence of the principle of Sankofa.

Best wishes.

Kwaku Ofori-Ansa
Author of Meanings of Symbols in Adinkra Cloth, First published in 1978 (Revised 1993 and 1999)


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