Conference Theme

Meaning of the Adinkra symbol. FUNTUNFUNEFU DENKYEMFUNEFU – Unity in Diversity.
Pronunciation key

The literal translation of Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu is “Conjoined crocodiles.” The symbol shows two conjoined crocodiles, which symbolizes democracy and cooperation.

Adinkra Symbols

Visual symbols originating in Africa used extensively in fabrics, pottery, logos, and weddings. Adinkra symbols are a unique expression of African heritage.

Origins and History

Adinkra are small symbols from West Africa, originally created by the Gyaman people, in what is now the present day country of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire in western Africa. The term Adinkra came from the legendary king of the Gyaman, Nani kofi Adinkra, who wore clothes with colorful patterns made up of symbols with special meanings.

King Adinkra was defeated and captured in battle by the ancient Asante people for having copied the “Golden Stool”. The Golden Stool is the Asante royal throne which was said to have descended from the heavens and landed on the lap of the first Asante king, and represents absolute power and tribal cohesion. King Adinkra was killed, his territory annexed by the neighboring Asante kingdom, and the patterns on his clothes were taken by the Asante as their own.

Creating Adinkra Symbols

Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history and beliefs of the Asante, and usually have a rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play an important role in their culture. Designs were originally made by cutting a pattern in a calabash gourd, and then stamping the print on a piece of colorful fabric. The deep brown ink originally used, adinkra aduru, is created by boiling the bark of the Badie tree with scraps of iron. Adinkra symbols continue to evolve to this day depicting historical events, technological improvements, and changes to Ghanaian culture.

Ancient and Modern Day Uses

Bidding Farewell

Adinkra can be literally translated to “good bye”, or “farewell” in Asante Twi, a language spoken in Ghana by approximately 15 million people. At one time, Adinkra cloth and symbols were only worn and displayed during funerals. The symbols signified their sorrow and acted as a way to bid farewell to the deceased.

Modern Day Usage

Nowadays, Adinkra is not exclusively won by the Asante people, and is worn at a variety of social gatherings and special occasions, such as weddings, festivals, and naming ceremonies. The symbols have been used to decorate accessories other than cloth by artists, carpenters and architects. Throughout Ghana and elsewhere, Adinkra can be seen on fabrics, walls, pottery, and even corporate logos.