|Adinkra||Cape Coast Castle||Haile Gerima|
|Sankofa - Bird||Sankofa - Adinkra||Shango|
Adinkra - The language of the Akan people of Ghana.
Cape Coast Castle - Cape Coast Castle is located on the coast of Ghana. It was originally a small trading fort but by the early 1500's had grown to be the second largest slave trading post on the continent, smaller than only Elmina Castle. It was named after the location's short rocky promontory and sheltered bay.
Gerima, Haile -
Haile Gerima was born in 1946 in Gondor, Ethiopia. He was the fourth of
ten children. His father was a writer and his mother was a teacher.
He came to the United States at the age of 21 to study film. It was in the
United States that Gerima first learned about the Atlantic slave trade, a topic
which had not been taught in the Ethiopian schools. He thus created
Sankofa to spur discussions on this topic. Gerima founded his distribution
company, Mypheduh Films, in order to balance out the distribution system of
movies in this country. His other works include Child of Resistance, Bush
Mama, and Harvest 3000 Years.
(Click here for a biography of Gerima.)
Maafa - The Maafa is the African Holocaust.
Oshun is one of the Yoruba goddesses. She was married to Ifa' but then
became involved with Shango. Thus in the movie Sankofa, Oshun is
represented by Shola, Shango's lover. Her legend was carried to the New
World, particularly Cuba and Brazil, through the Atlantic slave trade.
There, she was often linked with the Virgin Mary, in order to keep the African
culture while appearing to integrate with the Roman Catholic belief
system. This pairing was most likely made because of the Virgin Mary's and
Oshun's "...sweet and gentle aspect[s]..." (Thompson 17). It is
important to note that Mary's color's are blue and white. This explains
why, even after her initiation ceremony, Shola continues to where blue and white
as opposed to switching to red and white.
Oshun "...is the orisha you see healing by means of water that is cool" (Thompson 79). This fact explains why Joe thought Shola may be able to help him after he has killed Nunu in the river. This deity is also supposed to be very skilled at using knives. The oshun kole ornament is made in honor of this goddess to illicit her protection of the home. It traditionally contains buzzard feathers (Thompson 80).
Sankofa - An Adinkra word from the Akan people of Africa. Gerima says that the English translation of this word would be " 'returning to your roots, recapturing what you've lost and moving forward'" (Ritchards). An alternate translation is "No matter how far away one travels, he must always return home" (John).
Sankofa-Adinkra Symbol - An alternate symbol for the term sankofa is an intricate heart design (see Image Gallery). This heard design is also the symbol for the New York African Burial Ground Project because it was found on the only surviving coffin lid from the site.
Sankofa-Bird - One symbol frequently associated with the first interpretation of the term Sankofa is the Sankofa bird, which is also referred to as the bird of passage. This bird is a bird that is looking behind it. This represents the fact that although the bird is constantly moving forward, it continually looks behind it - to its past. Some feel that this bird represents both life and death.
Shango - Shango is
the thunder god of the Yoruba culture. His legend was brought to the new
world, particularly Cuba and Brazil, with the Atlantic slave trade. There,
in an effort to maintain their culture, Africans combined elements of their
beliefs with aspects of Roman Catholicism; Shango was paired with Saint
Barbara. This connection was drawn because the Roman Catholic God used
thunder to destroy this saint's killers.
Shango was originally a Yoruba king, but after he unintentionally unleashed lightning and thunder on his palace destroying his family, he committed suicide and became a god. "He became an eternal moral presence, rumbling in the clouds, outraged by impure human acts, targeting the homes of adulterers, liars and thieves for destruction" (Thompson 85). This explains why Gerima's Shango is such a rebellious individual, fighting for justice.
Shango is often symbolized by and honored through red and white beads or cloth. These colors refer to a concept found in many of his praise poems, "water by the side of fire at the center of the sky" (Thompson 87). They also reflect the fact that Shango was friends with the deity of creativity. Hence Gerima's use of red and white for the clothing of the members of the secret society is another reference to the deity Shango.
Shango the deity is sometimes depicted with nocturnal birds (Thompson 93). This explains Shola's reference during her final monologue to the fact that Shango had told her that the buzzard would lift her up away from the earth.