Some years ago a fellow requested that I create an amulet of his ancestral home land in Ghana. He then presented me with a rather large wood carving of the symbol. Although he had a hard time with the pronunciation, the basic concept was even more obscured. The translation he gave me was a mix of Christian doctrine and the quote from the fellow from which he purchased the Teak carving.
Because of the kind of work I do, I wanted to be sure that I understood the piece before I stared. Unfortunately the resource material I relied on was spotty, however after some digging, the symbol‘s information flowered.
Gye Nyame is a symbol meaning “I am afraid of none but God,” or: “Nyame biribi wo sor” suggests that good things come from above.
This unique and beautiful symbol is omnipresent in Ghana. It is the most popular in decoration: a reflection on the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian people. Symbol of the Omnipotence and the Omnipresence Of God. From the Akan aphorism: Abode santann yi firi tete; obi nte ase a onim ne ahyease, na obi ntena ase nkosi ne awie, Gye Nyame. Literal translation: This great panorama of creation dates back to time immemorial; no one lives who saw its beginning and no one will live to see its end, Except God.
The symbol reflects the Akan belief of a Supreme Being, the Creator. This symbol is considered the oldest “Monotheistic” symbol in existence demonstrating the Africans to have a firm belief in a Supreme and Almighty God. Those who follow the Akan Akom Tradition are indigenous to Ghana of West Africa, the Ivory Coast, Togo, the Congo, the Caribbean and the United States. Akans believe that God is the Supreme Being in whom all things begin, end, and upon whom all things are dependent. God is everywhere but beyond the reach of humans. We know Him by many appellations such as Otweidiampon, Okokroko, Onyame, Awurade, Odomankoma-the One who can give us grace, Nyankopon, Asasse Yaa-Mother earth, pure, unpolluted, motherly, protective, fruitful—He is the Great one, the faithful One, Eternal, Infinite, transcending everything.
Traditional Ghanaians do not worship God directly. They believe that there exists a world a world of spirits. It is believed that Spirits are everywhere. Nyame is the Father and Creator of those spirits. They are ministers of the Supreme Being: the lesser gods; they have no power unto themselves but work independently, doing the good work of healing and protecting the people who worship them. They are called Abosom(plural) or Obosom (singular), sometimes referred to as the Deities. These spirits are embodied in the elements and manifestations of Nature. Through the Abosom, one receives blessings, prosperity, protection, guidance and direction and more.
I set about to create this piece for my friend, included a pair of earrings developing an entire set. While the earrings are carved “flat”, the main pendant holds the curves to accentuate the flow of the design, thus I developed the Gye Nyame Amulet.
In my site I now offer the set or the individual pieces: a large and smaller version and a pair of earrings. Wearing these amulets connects one to a tradition that is well over 5000 years old from the continent of humanities’ cradle.