The akofena, meaning ‘sword of war’, is a popular Adinkra symbol featuring two crossed swords and representing heroism, valor, and courage. This symbol is present in the heraldic shields of several Akan states and signifies legitimate state authority.
What is the Akofena?
The akofena, also known as Akrafena, is a sword belonging to the Asante (or Ashanti) people of Ghana. It has three parts – a metal blade, a wooden or metal hilt, and a sheath that’s usually made out of animal hide.
The blades of akofena that are used as ritual swords do not always have sharp cutting edges. However, they do have Asante symbols on them, and some have double or triple blades. Some akofena have gold leaf wrapped around the hilt with Asante symbols on it and some have the symbols embossed onto the sheath.
The akofena was originally a war weapon, but it also forms an important part of Asante heraldry. It was also used in conjunction with the Asante stool blackening ceremony which took place after the death of an important leader. Ceremonial stools, which represented the person’s soul, were blackened, and placed inside a shrine in honor of the deceased.
Symbolism of the Akofena
The two swords of the akofena symbol symbolize the integrity and prestige of the supreme power. As a whole, the symbol signifies courage, strength, heroism, and bravery. It’s also known to signify legitimate state authority.
The Akofena as a War Weapon
According to some sources, akofena swords have been a part of Asante court regalia and used in wars since the 17th century AD. They were held by the traditional warrior groups of the Asante, as they traveled through the rainforests of the state. The sword was light enough to be used with one hand but was held with two hands for powerful strikes. In this context, the sword was known as an ‘akrafena’.
The Akofena as a National Symbol
In 1723, the akofena was adopted by the emperor-king Asantehene Opoku-Ware I as the City-State’s national symbol. It was carried by the emissaries of the king on state diplomatic missions. In these cases, the meaning of the symbol was embossed on the sheath of the sword, conveying the message of the mission.
The word ‘Akofena’ means ‘sword of war’.
This symbol represents strength, courage, valor, heroism, and the prestige and integrity of the Asante City-State.
The use of Akrafena is a martial art, utilizing the sword in conjunction with various other weapons and techniques. It’s the national sport of the Asante City-State.
What Are Adinkra Symbols?
Adinkra are a collection of West African symbols that are known for their symbolism, meaning and decorative features. They have decorative functions, but their primary use is to represent concepts related to traditional wisdom, aspects of life, or the environment.
Adinkra symbols are named after their original creator King Nana Kwadwo Agyemang Adinkra, from the Bono people of Gyaman, now Ghana. There are several types of Adinkra symbols with at least 121 known images, including additional symbols that have been adopted on top of the original ones.
Adinkra symbols are highly popular and used in contexts to represent African culture, such as artwork, decorative items, fashion, jewelry, and media.