Sankofa is a principle derived from the Akan people of Ghana that one should remember the past to make positive progress in the future. The Akan tribe of Ghanaian Africans is part of the larger Ashanti (or Asante) group of people from West Africa. \n\nThe word Sankofa literally means “to retrieve” in the Akan Twi language, but the meaning of Sankofa is more broadly expanded upon in this Akan proverb: “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi” (translated from the Akan language to mean “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”). The power of Sankofa centers around this: to know history and your heritage is to know your current self, the world around you, and how to better both.\n\nSankofa has inspired both activism and art. African American studies and Africana studies often reference the spirit and substance of Sankofa; and filmmakers, musicians, and artists have used the term and its related imagery in their work. From its Ghanaian roots, the concept and its symbols have become pan-African and even worldwide in their scope of influence.\nThere are two main Sankofa symbols—also known as Bono Adinkra symbols: one is a mythical bird turning its head backward to eat a precious egg and the latter is a stylized heart. People often manufacture the Sankofa bird as a gold weight or emblazon the Sankofa heart shape on art projects or even their bodies as Sankofa tattoos. The latter also appears on many gates in America, in New York in particular.\nGet the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) for exclusive access to video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Paul Krugman, David Axelrod, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Karl Rove, Jane Goodall, and more.\nSankofa is an African concept meaning we should retrieve things of value from our knowledge of the past.