Sankofa: Moving forward, Listening to the past.

The Akan people of Ghana have a proverb which goes, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi.” Literally translated it means, “It is not wrong (taboo) to go back and fetch what you forgot.

From the proverb comes the word Sankofa, which means ‘Go back and get it.’

The symbol of Sankofa is a bird moving forward but with its head turned backwards, in effect going forward yet remaining conscious of the past and the wisdom contained there.


The Sankofa Bird looks backward with the egg of the future in her beak, constantly checking as she moves into the future.

Sankofa teaches that in moving forward we must constantly go back to our past and use the lessons and wisdom from there to help us in the present and future.

The present is a direct result of the past, all our knowledge is a result of the past. Without the past there can be no future.

The only way to truly understand why and how we came to be who and where we are is by going back to examine our past.

Our past is an integral part of our future and present. To understand the present and realise the future’s full potential, we must go back to our past.

Not to stay in the past, but to gather knowledge from the past and use it to make the best of the present.

Whilst is is the way of the wise to learn from other people’s mistakes, we all make mistakes and only become truly foolish when we refuse to learn from those mistakes and past experiences.

Our experiences, whether personal or as a people, remain our greatest teacher and should guide us today.

That is Sankofa, simple yet profound.

There is no shame in going back to our roots.

There is no shame in learning from the past.

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