Riehlife Poems of the Day from Ghana: “Sankofa: Adinkra Poems” by A. Kayper-Mensah
Riehlife's April poetry editor for National Poetry Month Stephanie Farrow is a fine poet in her own right and a close friend since we served in Peace Corps Ghana in the 1970s. Stephanie selected these Adinkra poems by A. Kayper-Mensah (Sankofa: Adinkra Poems)
Stephanie tells us: Adinkra symbols are pictographs that reflect a specific proverb or saying of the Akan tribes. My husband John and I lived in the Asante region of Ghana, so seeing them brings back rich memories. Adinkra symbols are hand-stamped on funeral cloth, carved into wooden stools, used as molds for gold weights, and incorporated into architecture. These five short poems, each about a different symbol, are one Ghanaian poet’s lyrical explanation of their meanings. The titles are in Twi, one of the 56 dialects in Ghana. I’ve given the English translation off to the side.
Sankofa ("Return and Fetch It")
That bird is wise.
Look. Its beak, back turned, picks
for the present what is best from ancient eyes,
Then steps forward, on ahead
To meet the future, undeterred.
Donno Ntoaso (Double Drum)
My news of new love is so great
I need a double drum to celebrate.
Owo foro dobe (“A snake climbs the raffia palm.”)
It is a sign for diplomats
That a snake’s careful climbing skill
Can find a safe path up a raffia palm
through a thorny-jungle world.
Mpatapow (Peace and Reconciliation Knot)
You tied a single wisdom-knot
Into my foolish line
See. It caught
Your knots of peace: mine,
Yours, the world’s and God’s that men forgot.
Children of Ananse Kokuroko are we all,
The wide world our spider’s web.
And love, desire or need
Has sought us out to diverse points on this world-web.
Where’er we are, there are some strands to grasp
Strands to let go, leave, ignore.
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