The word Sankofa is from the Asante Twi language of the Akan people of Western Africa. This area, which we now know as Ghana and the Ivory Coast, is where many (if not most) of those who were captured and sold into slavery bound for the “New World” originated. The word itself means, “to return and get it” (san – “to return”; ko – “to go”; fa – “to fetch, to seek and take”).
The most prominent of the Asante Adinkra symbols for the concept of Sankofa “depicts a mythical bird flying forward with its head turned backward. The egg in its mouth represents the ‘gems’ or knowledge of the past upon which wisdom is based; it also signifies the generation to come that would benefit from that wisdom.” Other descriptions of this mythical bird symbol describe its feet firmly planted forward with its head turned backwards to take an egg off of its back.
In either case, the Sankofa symbol is associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates to “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” The symbol has been embraced by a number of Africana Studies departments and institutions to signify the quest for wisdom, acquired by reflecting on the past, in order to help build a stronger future.
The Witness Stones Project aspires to be an expression of Sankofa.
We thank artist Cathi Bosco for her interpretation of the symbol for our project.
 The Spirituals Project at the University of Denver. “African Tradition, Proverbs, and Sankofa”. 2004. Archived from the original on 20 April 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2010.