Tattoos and Snapbacks

Today while on the train I looked upon a young man’d arm which was adorned with a sleeve full of tattoos. As I looked on with contempt I couldn’t help but think of that half-witted song Snapbacks and Tattoos. Not that I have anything against tattoos. I have more than a couple myself. I don’t see the point of tattooing Bart Simpson on your arm unless you are Matt Groening. I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was almost 26. The reason being I wanted anything that I got permanently etched on my body to have meaning to me. All my tattoos have great meaning to me and I love everyone of them.

Yesterday I was showing a room in my apartment to a potential new roommate and I noticed her staring at my arm. She stopped me mid sentence and asked if I was African because I had an Adinkra symbol tattooed in my right wrist. I told her I was Nigerian and she in turn told me she was Ghanaian. She proceeded to tell me that I don’t look the least bit African.

Adinkra symbols are West African symbols originating from Ghana. There are more than 60 well known symbols and if you would like to see all the Adinkra symbols click here. I have eight Adinkra tattoos at various places on my body.

On my right wrist is the symbol Gye Nyame which means “without God”. It is probably the most popular Adinkra along with Sankofa.

On my right arm I have outline of Africa with Nigeria shaded in. Along top of Africa I have 4 different Adinkras. They are:

Akofena which means “sword of war ” and stands for symbol of courage, valor, and heroism.

Nyame Nti means “by God’s grace” which is a symbol of faith and trust in God.

Duafe is a “wooden comb” which symbolizes beauty and cleanliness; symbols of desirable feminine qualities.

Nsoromma which means “child of the heavens and stars”. It is a symbol of guardianship. A reminder that God is the father and watches over all people.

This is by far my favorite tattoo.

Right under my left clavicle I have 3 more Adrinkra symbols:

Mmere Dane. Its an hour glass which means “time changes ” and is a symbol of change and life’s dynamics.

Onyankopon Adom Nti Biribiara Beye Yie which translates into “By God’s grace, all will be well” and is a symbol of hope, providence and faith.

Hwe Mu Dua is a “measuring stick” and symbolizes examination and quality control.

On my back I have the scripture 2 Timothy 2:3 “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good solider in Jesus Christ.” It is what the apostle Paul told Timothy. The scripture is in the shape of a cross and ironically the only one of my tattoos that hurt.

On my left forearm I have part of a Bob Marley lyric from Redemption Song. “…none but ourselves can free our minds…”. Redemption Song is one of my favorites of all time and that is my favorite line.

So for now those are the tattoos that I have. I took time and thought before getting each one. They each mean something to me. They represent my heritage, my spirituality and my love of music and freedom of thought. I looked upon that young man’d arm and wondered what Bart Simpson could mean to him.


12 thoughts on “Tattoos and Snapbacks

  1. Tiffany In Houston

    Your potential new roommate sounded kinda ignorant to me. So how is an African person SUPPOSED to look? I went to grad school with a chick who was full on Nigerian American and was high yellow, lighter than me and I’m the descendant of slaves and probably all mixed up. Black folks come in all shades of the rainbow!

    And we need pics so we can fully appreciate the meanings of your tats. 🙂

    Great post.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      lol I know what she meant. [some] nigerians have some distinct facial features. oddly enough none of my siblings have any of those traits. i feel you on the complexion thing too . although i’m dark skinned my mother and brothers are lighter.

  2. Divine

    First, @Tiffany said. How is a Nigerian supposed to look??? Yeah that does sound very ignorant. You sure you want Ms. Ignorant for a roommate???

    Secondly, thank you for the link. I have been planning my tattoo for years. One of my tattoos I knew that I wanted it to be an Andinkra symbol. I was originally partial to the Sankofa but after seeing the list, I think that I have found one that better suits me. I saw it before but was always leery that the definition was incorrect. I don’t want to be walking around thinking that what I wrote on my body is something good when instead it was something cursing my whole family line.

    When it comes to tattoos I am really funny. I do not like tattoos all up and down one’s arms. I prefer mine to be in areas where they will not be visible all of the times. Although, I have seen some cute ones, I really dislike sleeves. It is no one’s business how I choose to decorate my body. I believe that tattoos are private and should be symbolic. I laugh at peole who write tehir name on their body. Unless you know that you will be experiencing dementia why are you putting your name on your body?

    Every tattoo that I am planning to get has meaning for me. Nothing elaborate or disrespectful to me as a woman. After all, I am a Finer Woman and take that very serious.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      i never got the writing your own name on your body. another thing that irks me are when i see chicks getting tattoos of their baby’s footprints. i don’t know why it does. it just does. lol

  3. Lioness Rising

    I agree there is no 100% look. I know light-skinned Nigerians

    I don’t have any tattoos because there I have yet to find something where I I know I will look down at 85 and still be in love with it. I see no reason to decorate my body with flowers and butterflies.

    I also like that you know every symbol on your body. if you are going to get a cultural symbol, especially if its not your culture, you should totally know the meaning behind it. Too many people walking around here with Chinese symbols and don’t know the full meaning and spiritual impact it could be having on their lives. Once you tattoo something onto your body, you are imprinting that meaning into your life and soul because words have power.

    The only thing that I have slightly permanent are waist beads, have had those for a year.

      1. Lioness Rising

        waist beads are chains wore around a woman’s waist for various reasons (to symbolize womanhood, fertility, arouse your man) The way you tie them you should never take them off unless you break them. Its a Ghanian tradition although in Nigeria they just wear them for fun I’ve heard. I had my Ghanian friends buy them and teach me so I respect the culture because mainstream has been catching on and wearing them too…

  4. Phidelity15

    I only have two but I surely did put time and thought into each of my tatts. My first one is an Ankh on my lower back (yes tramp stamp territory lol). I had the artist modify it a bit because I didn’t want the typical look of an ankh. My second and fave is the Adinkra Symbol Dwenini MMen. Its on my back just at the base of my neck. I saw that symbol my first year in college and i fell in love with its meaning. Strength and humility are characteristics that are extremely admirable. My next tattoo I plan to get will probably be my biggest and most significant. I’ve always wanted to do something relating to my family, and the idea came to me after my Uncle’s funeral. Hopefully I can get that done before the year is out if not, definitely at the top of the year.

    As for the dude with Bart on his arm, I wouldn’t be surpised that it could very well be something important to him. We obviously have no way of knowing but I’ve come to find that what may seem silly in a sleeve actually does have significance.

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      i like dwenini mmen. i’m thinking of getting another tattoo as well. i haven’t decided yet. if i do i want to add on to the one on my arm. sort of how atlas holds the world on his back in greek mythology. i would want an african man holding up africa on his back. i think it would be a half sleeve.

  5. Muze

    that’s a lot of tats. i love the meaning of that though. dope. i hate when i see big tattoos that mean nothing on people. like just because you like hearts doesn’t mean you should have a bunch of them going down your shoulder. lol. the other day i saw mickey mouse on this guy’s calf.

    i have one right now. on my left wrist. i decided since my daughter didn’t live she is my guardian angel. it’s her name with angel wings on either side. it’s also a tattoo that my brother and one of my sisters have. i only want two more. on my right wrist, the barcode to my 1st novel. and on my ring finger, a tiny tattoo that only my husband and i share. not necessarily a ring, but something that represents our bond. these are all tattoos i can trust i won’t regret when i’m 60. lol

    good post. i learned a lot!


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