Akan Cultural Symbols Project Hye anhye - Unburnable The Akan believe that the universe was created by a Supreme Being, whom they refer to variously as Oboadee (Creator), Nyame (God), Odomankoma (Infinite, Inventor), Ananse Kokuroko (The Great Spider; The Great Designer), etc. The Akan religious thought is essentially theocentric and theistic, with the Supreme Being, God at the center of it all. From this perspective, the Akan use their cultural symbols to portray their beliefs about God, their attitudes towards God and His creation, and the Akan's relation to God and His Creation. The Akan also believe that human creativity affects the universe positively or negatively. In essence, the Akan believe the universe is both a natural and social creation. Social creation is in the form of institutions and products human beings have invented. The Akan is required to safeguard the environment of the universe for a continuum of society members consisting of the dead, the living, and the yet-to-beborn. The Akan claim the Supreme Being created life and death, and death overcame the Supreme Being. However, the Supreme Being, having the antidote to the venom of death, was able to overcome death. This Supreme Being, Nyame, has eternal life. The Akan believe the Supreme Being is spiritual in form and is unburnable or indestructible (hye anhye). The Supreme Being puts part of His/Her spiritual form into human beings as the human soul (kra). This soul in the human being never perishes. That is why the Akan say Nipa wu a, na onwuee - When the human being dies, he/she is not dead. This soul reincarnates. When a child is born, the Akan give the child a soul name (kra din) such as Kojo (boy's name) or Adjoa (girl's name) for the child born on Monday because that is the name for day of the week the human soul appears in this physical world.
Samples of Symbols that Encode Aspects of Akan Cosmology
GYE NYAME - EXCEPT GOD GYE NYAME - EXCEPT GOD Symbol of the OMNIPOTENCE and the
the rays of the sun.NATURAL AND SOCIAL CREATION From the expression: Odomankoma boo adee. obi nte ase a onim ne ahyease. the moon. the moon and the stars.TOTALITY OF THE UNIVERSE ABODE SANTAAN TOTALITY OF THE UNIVERSE Symbol of the TOTALITY OF THE UNIVERSE .
. osrane ne nsoromma. He created the sun. the human being. GYE NYAME. Literal translation: God. The symbol reflects the Akan belief of a SUPREME BEING. EXCEPT GOD. the Creator. the double crescent moon. and the eyes depict natural creation by a supreme being.OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD From the Akan aphorism: Abode santann yi firi tete. oboo awia. ONYANKOPON TWEREAMPON. oboo nsuo ne mframa. the rain and the wind.g. Ote ase daa. the CREATOR who they refer to by various names e. na oboo owuo. and He created death. na obi ntena ase nkosi ne awie.. He lives for ever. He created life. oboo nipa. and the stool. no one lives who saw its beginning and no one will live to see its end. The symbol incorporates the eye. While the stool depicts the socially created institutions and the creativity of human beings. ABODE SANTAAN . NYAME. oboo nkwa. OBOADEE. The sun. Literal translation: This great panorama of creation dates back to time immemorial.
ADWERA . or GOD lives forever. lives in perpetuity.
ADWERA .The Akan belief is that the human soul. Thus.WATERY SHRUB
Symbol of PURITY. never dies. one performs an esubo ceremony to sanctify one's soul and appease the spirits for protecting one's life. and GOOD FORTUNE From the expression: Adwera nsuo.RISING SUN
AWIA REPUE . Adwera is a watery shrub that is used in esubo (purification) ceremony and akradware (soul washing) ceremony. an image of God. when one recovers from a long bout of illness.RISING SUN
Symbol of VITALITY.UNBURNABLE Symbol of the IMPERISHABILITY OF THE SELF. PERMANENCY OF THE HUMAN SOUL and TOUGHNESS This represents the idea that GOD. wo ne nkwansuo. CLEANLINESS. This ceremony starts with a bath of water that has been seeped in adwera leaves.HYE ANHYE . AWIA REPUE . LIFE SPARK.UNBURNABLE
HYE ANHYE . but does not burn. WARMTH. and ENERGY From the maxim: Ohene ye awia. the SPIRIT. Literal translation: Water of life. For example. you are the pure crystal clean water that boils. there is liFe after the death of the physical part of the human being. Literal translation:The king is the sun. the Spirit. CHASTITY. CONSECRATION. SANCTITY. nsu korogyenn a wohuru nso wonhye.
During the ceremony all streets of the townships were swept clean each morning and evening to remove mystical danger and to prevent disease or death from entering the township. This symbol became associated with the Progress Party in the 1969 general parliamentary elections in Ghana.LAND IS MIGHTY ASASE YE DUR . God is referred to as OMAWIA SOURCE OF THE SUN'S ENERGY and VITAL FORCE. that is why it is used to drive away evil and diseases. Every year. and it clears filth like the vulture does.SANCTITY KERAPA . SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. and AUTHORITY
. Literal translation: Sanctity is part particle of the good.God is king. a cleaning ritual (mmusuyidee) was performed in the past.LAND IS MIGHTY Symbol of POWER. ASASE YE DUR . GOOD SPIRIT. MIGHT. KERAPA . WEALTH. GOOD LUCK. okyiri fi na okram fie te se pete nti na Nananom de no yi mmusuo.SANCTITY Symbol of SANCTITY OF SELF. it abhors filth. it is like a cat. This symbol was woven into the bedside mat on which the king would step three times for good luck before going to bed. LIFE'S SUSTAINER. To the Progress Party this symbolized the rising sun (awia repue) as an indication of progress. and GOOD FORTUNE From the aphorism: Kerapa ye Nyame ahoboa: ote se okra.
the Akan refer to asase as Yaa (among the Twi-speaking Akan) or Afua (among the Fantse-speaking Akan). GOD'S PROTECTION. and God as Kwame.
Actual Nyame Dua tree stump that is placed in front of houses OWUO KUM NYAME .DEATH KILLED OWUO KUM NYAME .GOD'S ALTAR
NYAME DUA . The Akan used to place the God's altar in front of the house as a sign of God's presence and protection. This symbol reflects the importance of land to the Akan. land ownership by group or individuals is an important source of economic and political power. the Creator is the spiritual and masculine aspect of this duality.GOD'S ALTAR
Symbol of the PRESENCE OF GOD. Hence. Even though land is communally owned among the Akan.DEATH
.From the maxim: Tumi nyinaa ne asase. and SPIRITUALITY The symbol represents God's presence everywhere and every time. The Akan consider asase (land) as the physical and feminine aspect of the dualistic nature of the universe. Literal translation: All power emanates from land. HOLY PLACE. NYAME DUA . God.
and the POWER OF GOD TO OVERCOME DEATH From the maxim: Nyame boo owuo na owuo kum Nyame. THE
. He created Life. The Akan believe that The Creator created things. and God. Literal translation: God created death and death killed God. BIRIBI WO SORO and ASPIRATION THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE HEAVENS From the aphorism: Nyame. Literal translation: God. OSIADAN NYAME . This symbol was hung above the lintel of a door for the king to touch three times repeating the words of the aphorism for good luck. When He created Death. Life came into Him and woke Him up. biribi wo soro na ma emmeka me nsa. therefore.GOD. na Nyame na ote nanka aduro nti odii owuo so nkonim. EXPECTATION.GOD. let it reach me. When He created things. Thereafter. high hope and good expectations as he went out to carry out his duties each morning. yet the Eternal One also created the antidote to the venom of death. He lived forever.THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE HEAVENS Symbol of HOPE. there is something in the heavens. He created Death. BIRIBI WO SORO . When He created Life. When He died. Death killed Him. overcame death.KILLED GOD Symbol of the INVINCIBILITY OF DEATH. THE BUILDER OSIADAN NYAME .
God is the Supreme Creator. Church choir robes. the Gye Nyame and Kerapa symbols) that encode aspects of Akan spirituality and religious beliefs.
The Gye Nyame symbol on the altar in a Catholic Church. Tema
. Ghana. This symbol is found in Akan architecture.BUILDER Symbol of GOD.
Churches and Akan Symbols
Kerapa The picture above shows some of the Akan cultural symbols that have been incorporated into the liturgical art of the sanctuary of the Roman Catholic Holy Spirit Cathedral. His creation is considered as housing construction within which He provides abode for all His creation. often incorporate some of the Akan symbols (particularly. THE BUILDER AND CREATOR In Akan belief. Accra. for example. Other religious denominations have incorporated several of the Akan symbols in various aspects of church activities and church symbolisms.
.The two pictures on the left and on the right. show a man and a woman wearing clothes in which the Except God symbol had been embroidered. respectively. These people were coming from Sunday church services.