Adinkra Symbols in Jamaica
Geoffrey Philp, circa 1962
I grew up in Jamaica surrounded by Adinkra symbols. Notice the "grill work" on the gate. In fact, I think every Jamaican house has some kind of Adinkra symbol woven into the gate or over the window.
A window in the main house of Prospect Plantation near Ocho Rios,
A "Grill" in Negril.
It wasn't until I began working with several artists here in Miami that I realized what some of them meant. I suspect that many people in Jamaica pass by these symbols on their windows, gates, and security bars every day without realizing their significance.
As I was writing Marcus and the Amazons and working with the illustrator, Patrick Pollack, we decided to use Adinkra symbols throughout the book to highlight important traits in the characters.
For example, the main character, Marcus, named after Marcus Garvey--a holy warrior, has the symbol, NYAME YE OHENE: "God is King," on the front of his tunic.
One of these days, I would like to do a reading tour of all the Adinkra symbols on historic sites and houses in Jamaica to see if people knew what their gates and windows were saying. Or did they just think it was a pretty design?
These lead me to ask
On the older houses, were the ancestors leaving us messages?
If they were leaving us messages, can we still read them?
Which symbols survived and why were they so popular?
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