Royal Adinkra Symbols: A Brief History



The historical roots of Adinkra symbols date back to the times of the Akan people of Ghana, West Africa.

 History, philosophy and various religious beliefs were the core factors in the development of these symbols. Their roots stand strong to this day, with many modern-day individuals utilizing them to provide a range of products with definitive meanings. Such industries include jewelry, printing, fashion and even the world of architecture and film making.

So, what does the Adinkra symbolism mean? 

In the context of clothing, the meaning was amplified by the Akan people throughout the 19th century. It was during this time that they shed light on the unique, radiant art form by the name of Adinkra printing. Only spiritual leaders and royals were able to enjoy this luxury, where a special process was used to hand-craft these one-of-a-kind cloths.

As time went by, people started to embrace these tribal African symbols for an array of other special occasions, including weddings, initiation rites, festivals, naming ceremonies and beyond. As with anything in life, things evolve with time, and Adinkra symbolism is no different. The Akan people have worked tirelessly to take its impact further, using their own folk-tales and various cultural influences.

Contemporary culture and design are still reaping the rewards of Adinkra impact, incorporating it into an array of modern designs. People love integrating it for the reason that it adds a new dimension of significance to any product, from sculptures to African jewelry to clothing.

Traditionally speaking, the designs were delicately hand-printed, using particular colors of hand-woven cotton (red, dark brown or black were the most popular) However, in today’s world, mass production has seen the items being produced on a wide variety of brightly colored fabrics.

If you look at an Adinkra Piece, you’ll see that some of the most common symbols include:


  • GYE NYAME - "Except for God" (A symbol of Godly Supremacy)
  • SANKOFA - "Return and Get It" (A symbol of the importance of learning from the past and letting it shape the future)
  • FUNTUNFUNEFU- DENKYEMFUNEFU - "Siamese Crocodiles" (A symbol of democracy and unity)
  • DENKYEM - "Crocodile" (Symbolizing adaptability)
  • DWENNIMMEN - "Ram's Horns" (Symbolizing the concept of humility and strength mixing as one)


While the widespread usage of Adinkra symbols is growing beyond the realms of religious icons and royalty, the symbols in their purest form still holds significant meaning and often used by individuals to assert their personal values. The significance of Adinkra Symbols is still very much alive to this day, and the widespread love for its power can be seen in every corner of the globe.


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