January is the season of planning and resolutions. Some of us have probably already broken a few of the latter. Fortunately, we can renew them on Chinese New Year – 16th February – but perhaps we’d be better off considering Sankofa.
There are various translations and meanings attributed to the West African Akan words ‘san…ko…fa…’ and the associated bird symbol shown above, but the one I like most is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”
The bird is usually shown with its feet firmly planted forward while its head is turned backwards, beak open to retrieve an egg from its feathers. The egg is a symbol of something precious, the wisdom from the past, necessary to move into the future. “Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.
Sankofa has special significance for the descendants of those taken as slaves from Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Benin to the “New World” or North America. It reminds of the need to reflect on the past in order to build a positive future.
At this time of the year, when goal setting pundits reign supreme, the past is mostly ignored. It’s all about the future, creating the best year yet, planning to get that novel/memoir/kids’ book written, illustrated, finished; multiplying income; building an author platform, etc. etc. etc.
We do need to plan. I’m a great lover of planners. In fact this year I invested in a beautiful Kiki K gold leather binder and filled it with Charmaine Clancy’s 2018 Planner for Writers pages. There’s something inviting and inspiring about the feel of leather and the quirky page design that Google Calendar simply does not deliver on my phone screen. So far I’m using the planner, unlike last year’s that languished on my desk under piles of paper for months at a time.
Yes, I am planning. I’m facing forward into 2018, but I am turning again to bring with me the precious truths from the past; the strengths, the achievements, lessons learned, the happy moment memories. I think sometimes we need to be reminded to go back and collect those things we have forgotten, or lost or had taken from us.
Last year, one of the things I lost was my own perspective on events and personal history. I know why that happened – that’s a story for another post. Let’s just say, I became very enmeshed in loved one’s version of events until I was confronted with such an unbelievable, manufactured memory (at least from my perspective) that it shocked me back into my own reality.
I realised then that to shut out the past, or to travel onwards acknowledging only the pain, and ignoring the power of the past is to live a strange, half-truth reality cobbled together with determined forward planning. It’s a distorted, uneven landscape that buckled and heaved beneath my feet. It’s like the reassembled shards of a shattered mirror that presented a crazy disconnected reflection of the story or event.
In the end, it’s all personal perception, but for now, I’m seeking out those eggs of wisdom from the past as I make my plans for the future.
Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you think about this idea.
Photo credit: Spencer Means on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA