The Importance of Symbols

Several years ago, I discovered Adinkra symbols.  I was Googling something (I don’t even remember what I was looking for) and I was led to a website with some interesting visual designs called Adinkra.

According to,

Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa that represent concepts or original thoughts. Adinkra are used on fabric, walls, in pottery, woodcarvings and logos. Fabric adinkra are often made by woodcut sign writing as well as screen printing. They also can be used to communicate evocative messages that represent parts of their life or those around them.

The Adinkra symbols of the Ashanti in Ghana are timeless and still used today. There are contradictory views as to their origin and age.  The name “Adinkra” can probably be traced back to the word “Dinkra” of the Akan/Twi Language, which is spoken by the Ashanti.  “Dinkra” means: being separated, taking leave, saying farewell. Fabrics printed with the Adinkra motifs are often used during times of mourning.  Approximately four hundred such symbols are known in Ghana.  Normally, the Adinkra are simplified or stylized representations of objects, plants, animals, natural shapes, hairstyles, or buildings.  Many of these motifs share a common basic form, and slight variations in the representation may entail a change in the meaning.

In Afrika a great deal of philosophical material is embedded in the proverbs, myth, and folk-tales, folksongs, rituals, beliefs, customs, and traditions of the people.


This symbol is called Sesa wo suban-“Change or transform your character”.  There are many Adinkra symbols but I was drawn to this one, even without knowing what it meant.  As fate would have it, the symbol represents transformation of character or life.  What a fitting symbol for me, to represent my recovery from mental illness and the transformation of my life.  I now have this symbol on the wall in my office and I wear it around my neck as a constant reminder of my life’s journey.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  In my case, a symbol is all I need.

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