Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Symbol of an Executioner's Power

Adinkra’s are African visual symbols created in West Africa.

Adinkra symbols represent a feeling or simple saying in other words Adinkra are symbols that represent concepts or sayings telling a story without words.

Adinkra symbols are visual representations of concepts, proverbs, or beliefs that originated from the Akan people of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. They are often used as decorative elements in fabrics, pottery, sculptures, and architecture. Adinkra symbols can convey complex messages and stories without using words, making them a powerful form of communication and expression.

The word "adinkra" means "farewell" or "goodbye" in the Twi language, and it is said that the symbols were created by King Adinkera of Gyaman in the 19th century when he was captured by the Asante king for copying his golden stool. The Asante king ordered him to be stamped with adinkra symbols as a mark of shame, but King Adinkera turned it into a symbol of pride and resistance by creating his own adinkra cloth.

There are hundreds of adinkra symbols, each with a unique name and meaning. Adinkra symbols are not only beautiful and meaningful but also versatile and adaptable. They can be combined, modified, or stylized to create new symbols and meanings. They can also be used to express personal values, identity, or emotions. Adinkra symbols are a rich and vibrant part of African culture and heritage that can inspire and educate people around the world.

There are hundreds of adinkra symbols, each with a unique name and meaning, here are five of our power favorites; Aya, Sepow, Masie, Gye Nyame and Nsoroma.

”Look at your past and you will recognize your future”


Aya, the fern is the symbol for independence meaning I am not afraid of you.


Sepow is the symbol of an executioner's power. It was a dagger, which the executioner plunged into the condemned mouth to prevent them from conjuring up a curse on the king before death.


Masie symbolizes the saying I understand and will keep your confidence.


Gye Nyame represents the phrase except God I fear none.


Nsoroma symbolizes the saying that you are a child of the sky resting with God and not depending upon yourself.

Adinkra symbols are more than just decorative motifs. They are also a way of communicating and expressing ideas, values, and emotions without words. The Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast have created hundreds of adinkra symbols over the centuries, each with a unique name and meaning. They are inspired by nature, culture, history, and religion, and they reflect the wisdom and beliefs of the Akan people.

To use adinkra symbols, you need to understand their meanings and how they relate to each other. You can find many resources online or in books that explain the names and meanings of adinkra symbols, as well as their origins and stories. You can also learn from elders or experts who know the traditions and customs of adinkra.

Once you know the meanings of adinkra symbols, you can choose the ones that resonate with you or your message. You can use one symbol or combine several symbols to create a new meaning. You can also modify or stylize the symbols to suit your preference or purpose. For example, you can change the size, color, orientation, or shape of the symbols.

You can use adinkra symbols for various purposes, such as decorating fabrics, pottery, sculptures, and architecture with adinkra symbols to add beauty and symbolism. Wearing adinkra symbols on clothing or jewelry to express your identity, values, or emotions. 

Giving adinkra symbols as gifts to friends or family to show your appreciation, respect, or love. Teaching adinkra symbols to children or students to educate them about African culture and heritage. Creating art or crafts with adinkra symbols to showcase your creativity and talent.

Adinkra symbols are a wonderful way of celebrating and sharing African culture and heritage with the world. They are also a powerful tool for communication and expression that can inspire and educate people of all ages and backgrounds.

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