Jewelry plays significant roles in the Ghanaian community. They are not just aesthetic items that enhance the personal adornment of an individual but also have symbolic meanings that unveil the philosophical values, concepts and accepted norms for communal living in Ghana. Also, canoes which are primarily used for fishing activities especially in the coastal regions of Ghana particularly among the Fantes in Takoradi, Elmina and Mankessim in the Central region of Ghana have some symbols carved on the wooden canoes. These symbols give deep insights into the accepted ethical codes expected of residents in Ghana. Others serve as inspirational messages to the fishermen as they engage in their fishing activities.
The designs or symbols on jewelry products such as necklaces, rings, wristlets, anklets, bracelets etc. sometimes have symbolic meanings. Examples of such symbolic objects and animals are looked into below.
1. The Mud Fish- The usual place for the mud fish is in the water. Therefore if one manages to catch and possesses it, the mud fish becomes his sole property. For this reason, the mud fish symbolizes total ownership. If the mud fish is in the one’s possession, it is the choice of the owner to either fry or roast it. The fish cannot do anything about the choice of its owner but just to accept it in good faith. The mud fish, in this case, symbolizes the need to adapt oneself to diverse situations.
2. The Dove- This is the white bird portrayed in the eve of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River. It is a very peaceful animal. It is a symbol of the presence of the spirit of God and thus of hope to be successful in one’s endeavor. Therefore, the dove is a symbol of peace and hope. This explains why at the funeral rites of the late former president of Ghana Professor Evans Atta Fiifi Mills, doves were flown all over in the sky because he was acclaimed as an ‘Asomdwoe hene’ (King of Peace).
These are the symbols found on canoes often carved and painted. The canoe symbols have proverbial meanings. Most of them are words of advice and caution to fishermen. Some also unveil the philosophies, beliefs, social values and concepts of the society. Examples of canoe symbols and their meanings are discussed below.
1. The Snake and Fish- These two animals are always represented together at the stems of the canoes. Sometimes, the design is represented by a snake-looking fish called the ‘Dane woakyi kofa’. This literally means ‘turn round and take’. The snake is said to be waiting for food and the fish is the food which may come in any direction. The snake is ever ready to pounce and catch the fish from any direction. The design symbolizes the cunning and crafty ways of fishermen. It also portrays their readiness to work at any time.
2. The Anchor- This is the device used in keeping canoes from being swept away by the current or waves of the sea or the river. The anchor is, therefore, a symbol of stability.
3. The Crab- The crab may be represented alone or together with a bird. This symbolizes the fact that a crab does not give birth to a bird but always gives birth to its kind thus a crab. It shows that the behavior of children reflects their parent’s attitudes and lifestyles.
4. The Seagull Bird- This bird usually shows up at a particular spot on the river or sea where there is the presence of fish. The seagull bird, therefore, directs fishermen to fertile grounds for fishing. It is, therefore, a symbol of hope.
5. The arrow- This is a symbol composed of an arrow with an arrowhead attached to both end of it and a cord wound loosely around the stem. This is called Akosaasan, meaning ‘go into battle and return victorious’. It is a symbol of protection and safety.
6. The Star- The star serves as a guide to fishermen when they lose their way at sea at night. It is the light of the stars that help them find their way back home. The star is, therefore, a symbol of hope.
7. The Heart- It is a very important organ of the body. It gives life and it’s very delicate. Anything connected to the heart has to be handled patiently and with the greatest care. The heart is, therefore, a symbol of patience or tolerance.
8. The Elephant- This animal is the largest in the forest. It symbolizes greatness and royalty. It is used to show the greatness of a particular fishing group that has the image of the animal carved and painted on their canoes.
Ghana is a country of traditions and cultures. Therefore, every item designed has designs that transcend beyond the visual outlook but enlightens people about the culture of the people. Thus, wearers jewelry and users of canoes must abreast themselves with the symbolic knowledge of these symbols.