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Every Ghanaian "stool" or "skin" has a linguist. He goes on errands to convey his master's ideas, or appears in public with him.

It is the linguist who puts the chief's whispers into poetic and eloquent language. He is not only a month-piece as he is wrongly described today but rather and ambassador and a very useful and prominent courtier. Indeed a chief's fame, to a great extend, depends upon the wisdom and eloquence of his linguist.

The symbol he carries is the symbol (usually proverbial) of the state he represents. Some depict animal or human forms while others depict just simple abstract shapes. Whatever stands on that staff or stick represents the beliefs and aspirations of the entire state. The staff itself is made of wood wrapped with either silver or gold leaf, or sometimes of solid gold or silver.

When the linguist is about to pronounce judgement he transfers the stick from his right hand for gesticulation. A linguist represents the link between the chief and his people, and the staff is his symbol of authority.

Symbols of authority, like the crown in Europe. In the North (of Ghana) they have skins and the South they have stools.

cockerel & hen CROWING COCKEREL: " Wuo gbee, La gbee". La crows with the cockerel ( we are alert): Ga.Akan version: "Obi nnto n;akokonin mma onnkobono obi kuroso." No one buys a cock to let it crow for another person's town.

three heads

THREE HEADS: "Odomankoma Nyansaba se, 'tikoro nnko agyina'." The God of wisdom says, 'one head cannot go into counsel. Two (three) heads are better that one.


TORTOISE, SNAIL AND A HUNTER: "Eka akyekyere ne nwa nko a nka tuo nnto hamu da." If it were only the tortoise and the snail, the gun will never be fired in the forest. You do not need to fire the gun to catch the snail or the tortoise. Symbol of peace.


A HAND HOLDING AN EGG: Power is like an egg, when held too tightly it might break, or falls and breaks when held loosely. A successful ruler must be both firm and sympathetic.


A POT ON A HEARTH, WITH THE HEAD OF AN ANIMAL ON TOP: "Aboa tiri enyera nkwan mu." The head of an animal is never lost in a soup. Anybody of significance does not get lost in the crowd; or anything of significan does not vanish.


A LION TRAMPLING ON A HUNTER: " Wokyere bofo a na tuo aka gyan." When the hunter is ove powered his gun becomes useless. Without the gun the hunter is helpless.


A HEN STEPPING OVER HER CHICKS: A hen steps on her chicks not to hurt them but to prevent them from being trampled upon by some one else which might be harmful. Wuo nane egbee ebi (Ga).


TWO LEAVES: Another version of "Tikoro nnko agyina" - one head ( here represented by a leaf) can not go into counsel.


A SEATED CRIPPLE (OR A BLIND MAN) WITH STONES AROUND HIM: If a cripple or the blind threatens to throw stones at you, you can be sure that he already has stones with him. Warning against unfounded underestimation.


A HAWK: When the hawk goes out it leaves its affaires to the kite. ("Osansaa ko abu a ode n'akyi gya akroma.") So in the absence of the hawk the kite may be held responsible.

Hye wo

AN ELEPAHANT: "Osono nni man yi mu a anka okoo ye bopon," If there was no elephant the buffalo would be considered the biggest creture. In pidgin English: 'Man pass man'. No matter how big you may be there is always somebody bigger.


THE RABBIT: "Adanko se, 'Obi gye obi nkwa.' " Appreciating reciprocal aid. They say in pidgin English: " Hand go hand come."

tsetsefly& tortoise

A TSETSEFLY ON A TORTOISE: Hurii di akyekyere akyi kwa." The tsetsefly follows the tortoise in vain. Unprofitable and therefore useless venture trying to steal from a fortress.


A KIND OF APE: "Kwakuo se, 'm'susuo nyinaa wo me tiri mu' ." The ape says 'I reserve my comments.' My future plans are in my head, you will never know.

Gyamu atiko

A PORCUPINE: (The animal symbol of the Asante.) "Kotoko rennko a hwe n'amiade." You can tell from the quills whether the porcupine is ready to fight or not. You can easily tel when the porcupine is serious.


THREE HEADED HEARTH: "Kuro bi mu dom nwui a, kuro bi so mbukyia nsae." It is only where humans cease to live that the hearth is not found. Where there is fire, there must be life.


A CHILD EATING AN EGG: "Obi nkyere komfo ba kosua di." No one teaches a fetish priest's child how to eat an egg. We inherit or learn our parents' doings.


SANKOFA BIRD: "Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi." It is no taboo to return to fetch something which has been forgotten. You can always correct your mistakes.


ANTELOPE ON AN ELEPAHANT: "Man ko ta man ko no." (Ga) Some town is sitting on another town. The top is reached not by size or might but by sense.


PINEAPPLE: The pipneapple is plucked and eaten only when it is ripe, otherwise it can sour. Everything at its own good time, or God's time is the best.


A COBRA BEING KILLED BY AN EAGLE: The power of the eagle is demonstrated not only in the air but on land as well. (All conquering) Versatility of power or strength.


A COCKEREL AND A HEN: "Akoko bedee nim adekyee nanso otie no akokonini ano." The hen knows it is dawn but it leaves the announcement to the cockerel. Knowing ones position or status in society.


A LAD STROKING A LION: "Akwabea nnim gyata a ose oye odwan. " The innocent Akwabea mistakes a loin for sheep. It is only the ignorant that plays with a lion.


TWO SEATED OVER FOOD, WITH ONE EATING, THE OTHER NOT: "Nea ade wono na odi, nnye nea okom de no." The eater is not necessarily the hungry but the owner. Work before enjoyment. A pidgin English version says: "Unput, unchop".


A BUFFALO : Symbol of the stool of Berekum state. The animal is regarded as the most powerful animal save the lion. Hence the state's power to defend and protect. Symbol of warning.


A CLENCHED FIST WITH THE THUMB UP: 'Gye Nyame' Except God. Only God counts. The idea also appears in 'adinkra' symbolism in the form of an abstract shape which may have been stylised from this clenched fist.


A MAN HOLDING A SNAKE BY THE HEAD: "Wuso owo ti mua a nea aka no ye ahoma." When you get hold of the snake what is left is just rope. Problems are best tackled headon.


A DOG LICKING ITS MASTER'S LIPS: Wogyegye wo kraman a, otafere w'ano." If you pet your dog to much it licks your lips. Warning against spoiling.
crab A CRAB: "Okoto nnwo anoma". The crab begets a crab, not a bird. Offsprings inherit the habits of their parents.

Prepared by Prof. Ablade Glover, ATD,MEd,PHD,FRSA, College of Arts Kwame Nkrumah
University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

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