Sankofa – to go back and fetch what you have left behind. Sankofa is a word from the Twi language of the Akan nation from Ghana. The symbol that represents this principle is a bird reaching back to an egg on its back.
What this principle teaches us is that the past serves as a guide for the future and we must go back, retrace the the steps of our ancestors to see and find the answers to progress and move forward in the world we’re in today.
Since learning about this principle, I have tried to apply it to my life and it has changed my outlook on life and the way in which I interpret them. In a way, learning about sankofa has played an important role in shaping and becoming the person I am today, although I know I may not be the same person in 5 years or even 10.
The history of Afrika is so rich with knowledge. This knowledge however, remains untapped because we cannot apply the simple concept of sankofa. To go back to the way our ancestors viewed things and thought and rationalised problems. This way of thinking would apply to any scenario even present day. Culture is not stagnant but dynamic and the understanding and application of this generation will differ from generation to generation but the underlying principle remains the same.
The way I see it is that by looking back and recognising and appreciating the splendour and the magnificent heritage our ancestors left behind us, is within our capabilities because they are us and we are them. Knowing what our potential as Afrikans is, allows us to understand what we can do. Medicine, Science, Philosophy, Math, Art, Astronomy are all fields of knowledge that we created and mastered and there is no reason why we cannot do it again.
I always remember reading and hearing a quote growing up that “its not real/official unless it is set in stone”. Our ancestors left messages and instruction set in stone in Kemet but because we have not fully grasped the concept of sankofa, hence we have not gone and translated what they wrote for us for our own use.
Step by step we are heading in the right direction but an emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of sankofa and the role it plays in our lives. It should be a principle instilled at home and reinforced in the school environment for a greater appreciation.
Sankofa helped me be proud of who I am and strive to be the best version of myself I can be.
We live and we learn.
Nfr Sa Ma’at