"Go Back and Get It"
The word sankofa comes from Akan, the language of the 18th- and 19th-century Ashanti empire in what is now Ghana and Ivory Coast. In Akan, sankofa derives from the words meaning “go back and get it” and occurs in the proverb, “It’s not wrong to go back to get what you’ve forgotten.” The term also names one of the ancient Akan visual symbols called adinkra. As seen above, the adinkra sankofa bird is turning backward but picking up an egg representing the future.
The word thus aptly sums up the impulse of a Sankofa journey: an exploration of America’s history in order to move forward in racial reconciliation through knowledge, empathy, and inspired vision illuminated by the past.
Other than sankofa and adinkra, other Akan words that have entered the English vocabulary include many botanical terms, kente cloth, and the cunning, mythical spider figure Anancy (or Anansi).