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.