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Duafe – Symbolism and Meaning

Duafe is an Akan word made by combining the two words ‘dua’, meaning ‘wood or wooden’, and ‘afe’, meaning ‘comb’. The duafe symbol depicts a comb, usually with six teeth, and an oval placed horizontally above it. 

Symbolism of the Duafe

The duafe is a symbol of femininity, love, care, and good hygiene. To the Akans, it signified the qualities they considered feminine, such as fondness, prudence, and patience.

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In many ancient and modern African societies, the hair comb is symbolic of status, religious beliefs, group affiliation, and ritual properties. To the Africans, it is not only a grooming accessory, but is also regarded as a powerful cultural icon.

The duafe symbol is commonly used in various types of jewelry designs. It’s also a popular tattoo design among those who wish to showcase their beauty and femininity.

The West African Duafe

The traditional African comb (or duafe) is also known as an ‘African pick’, ‘African rake’, or ‘Afro pick’. The duafe is an important symbol in Africa, as it depicts one of the most important items and a prized possession used by Akan women for grooming. Hair and grooming have always been important aspects of African culture.  

It was assumed that the duafe was created in the 1970s, but evidence from archaeological digs shows that it was invented thousands of years before this estimated date. It’s not exactly clear when the first comb was created, but archaeologists have unearthed wooden Afro combs which can be traced back around 7,000 years.

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The first African comb looked much like the pick combs used in the modern world. They were made from wood and had long teeth, which could be used on all hair types. The handles were decorated with human figures, nature motifs, objects of status, as well as images of the spiritual world.

Today, combs inspired by the West African duafe are used around the globe. There are various types available on the market, in different shapes, sizes, and colors.   


What does ‘duafe’ mean?

Translated, the word ‘duafe’ means comb.

What does the wooden comb symbolize?

The duafe is symbolic of femininity, love, care, good hygiene, and being well-groomed.

What is an Afro comb?

The Afro comb is what is known around the world as the ‘pick comb’. It has long teeth that makes it easier to comb tightly curled or tangled hair.   

Duafe symbolism

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.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.