Africa is a continent filled with so many different ethnic groups, making it rich in culture and values.
There are so many parts of African culture distinct to each ethnic group and beliefs. The clothes, food, beauty standards, and general beliefs, all differ from one another.
Also, there are different languages and symbols that are specific to a different ethnic group. Each symbol is beautiful and has a specific meaning attached to it that has been passed down from several generations to the present. One of such symbols is the Gye Nyame Symbol.
The Gye Nyame Symbol is a symbol that is very popular in West Africa, and used by many, however, not everyone can tell what it stands for.
In this article, you will be well enlightened on what exactly this symbol is and why it is so important. You will, also, be educated on its various uses and origin.
What Is The Gye Nyame Symbol?
Gye Nyame translated from the Twi language to English means Except God. Gye translates to Except, and Nyame translates to God. The symbol symbolizes God’s omnipotence and the deep knowledge that people should not fear anything except for God.
A different interpretation of “except for God” is that no one lives who saw the beginning of creation and no one will live to see its end, EXCEPT GOD. Gye Nyame represents the sovereignty of God over all things and beings, and therefore he is the one that is to be feared and revered by all.
Some also say that the Gye Nyame symbol represents a spiral galaxy. (see here)
The Gye Nyame symbol is one of the most popular Adinkra symbols used by many in Ghana and the rest of the world. This symbol has been used for many years now, as it is a deep part of the Ghanaian culture in West Africa.
Adinkra symbols can be dated back to 1817, when an Englishman called, Thomas Edward Bodwich, obtained a piece of cloth in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Empire with the symbols carved into the cloth with a calabash.
These symbols are very exotic and have a specific history with each. (related article: Adinkra Symbols and their meaning)
What is the Significance Of The Gye Nyame Symbol ?
The Gye Nyame symbol has been used for many decades now to express deep belief in the Supreme being.
This symbol is used by the Akans to express their deep faith in an omnipresent God, who is called by many other names.
Some of these names are; Onyame, Onyakopon, and others. Looking closely at the symbol, you would realise that the symbol shows a person inside a hand, which expresses the fact that we are held in the hand of God.
There are so many ways in which the Gye Nyame symbol is used to depict God’s involvement in every aspect of the Akan people.
You can notice this mainly in how this expression or symbol is added in different statements popular with the Akans. Some examples of these statements are;
- Nyame nwu na mawu: This statement simply means that God will not die for me to die. This statement, which has become a popular proverb overtime, simply tells of God’s greater power. It translates to the fact that God is immortal and since we are all linked to him in spirit, He will need to die before we can. This is used by many usually in an advent of a person threatening another.
- Obiara ntumi nku me gye nyame: This translates directly into “nobody can kill me except God”. This saying is used by many to further show the speaker’s trust in God for his protection from harm.
The Gye Nyame is greatly used to reaffirm God’s position in the lives of mere mortals, as well as, his incomparable power and strength.
Some suggest that the use of this symbol by the Akan people shows that the Akan had a highly advanced writing language that transmitted religious and cultural concepts, and also might have had a some what extensive knowledge of astronomy, which indicates that the Akan were a more advanced civilization.
Apart from using this phrase in different proverbs, the symbol itself has been used for aesthetic purposes for years.
The Beauty Function Of The Gye Nyame Symbol
The Gye Nyame symbol is not only appreciated for its amazing meaning, but also, its beautiful structure. Hence, it is used in so many decorative materials and other decorations. As mentioned earlier, a cloth with Adinkra symbols was found with an English man in 1817, which tells us that this practice has been in play for generations.
The following are a few ways this Adinkra symbol can be used to decorate different items;
This is the first use of the Gye Nyame symbol, it is carved in different textile materials either for show or to be worn. Whichever ways, it is used to make clothes and other items that require textile materials, like a bag. The symbol is carved using a calabash and an animal based dye, which is long lasting and consistent.
It is very common to see artists using the Gye Nyame symbol for various art projects like threadworks, wood cutouts and even painting. These projects are usually painted with beautiful colors and appreciated by many.
The Gye Nyame symbol is a favorite for many who are deeply rooted in culture and exotic pieces. This symbol can be used for decorating a silhouette home and also, different rooms in a home.
Also, you can get utensils like cups made with a Gye Nyame symbol design, they are truly exotic and aesthetically pleasing.
If you love accessorizing and you’re wondering if any is available with this symbol, then you should jump for joy. There are so many accessories in the market with the Gye Nyame symbol that you would love. From necklaces, pendants, earrings, rings, and bracelets. All you need to do is take a pic of your favorite one and you’re good to go.
The Gye Nyame symbol is by far one of the most popular Adinkra symbols used till date, because of its meaning and versatile use in decoration. A lot of people who believe in aura believe this symbol brings about peace and control in their lives as the meaning implies. Plus, with so many options of decorative accessories and utensils, adding a piece to your home or fashion look will be really easy.