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Symbolism of Adinkra in African Jewellery

by allenshaw

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Adinkra symbols can be traced back to their origins of the Asante people of Ghana, West Africa. Created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d'Ivorie (Ivory Coast), they developed these symbols based on history, philosophy and certain religious beliefs. Today they are widely used to give definitive meanings and messages through a wide range of different products, including jewellery, Adinkra cloths, clothing and even architecture. 

The meaning of Ghanaian Adikra symbolism in African jewellery was portrayed through the Asante people in the 19th century, when they developed the unique art of Adinkra printing. Creating hand made cloths through a special process, these cloths were made exclusively for both spiritual leaders and royalty. As time has gone on, these African tribal symbols have been used for other special occasions, such as weddings, initiation rites, festivals and naming ceremonies.

The Asante have further developed the Adinkra symbology over time, with their own folk-tales and culture influencing the symbols created. Now incorporated into modern culture and designs, the meaning of Ghanaian Adikra symbolism in African jewellery and other items gives added significance to products, such as sculptures, african jewellery and clothing.

Traditionally they were hand printed of certain colours of hand-woven cotton, red, dark brown or black were the most common used. In modern times they have been frequently mass produced on a wide range of brighter coloured fabrics.

Some of the most commonly found Adinkra symbols include:

GYE NYAME - "except for God" - symbol of the supremacy of God


SANKOFA - "return and get it" - symbol of importance of learning from the past


FUNTUNFUNEFU- DENKYEMFUNEFU - "Siamese crocodiles" - symbol of democracy and unity


DENKYEM – "crocodile" - symbol of adaptability


DWENNIMMEN - "ram's horns" - symbol of humility together with strength


Although, the Akindra symbols are now used by many other people, not just exclusively by religious leaders and royalty, the symbols themselves still have significant meanings to the people that use them. Both African jewellery for men and African jewellery for women exist, when worn they hold deep meanings and often have underlying philosophies behind them. African tribal jewellery has become more popular as time has gone on, now widely available, the symbols used can be traced right back to the history of African jewellery and the original Akindra symbols.

African tribal jewellery is available from a number of different stores, both online and in person. There are plenty of resources where you can research and learn about the different Adinkra symbols available in African jewellery, therefore allowing you to know which one is right for you. Go into your local store and talk to someone, or use one of the many search engines to discover more information. Before making a purchase, research which symbol matches your lifestyle, beliefs and personal philosophies.

Even though it has been many years since the symbols were first created, the meaning of Ghanaian Adinkra symbols in African Jewelry is still alive today and can be seen all over the world.



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