Sankofa is a film that was recorded in 1993 in Ghana. It is written in the Akan language in Ghana where it means “to go back and get it”. Sankofa can be broken down into San, Ko and Fa where San refers to return, Ko refers to go while Fa refers to look or seek then take. It is symbolized by a bird that has turned its head backwards to take an egg off its back. The film is associated with an Asante’s proverb which implies that it is not always wrong to back for what has been forgotten. The symbol of the bird that flies forwards with its head turned backwards reflects the Akan belief that the past must be reviewed in order to properly plan for the future. There is much wisdom in using the knowledge from the past in building the future. Within the Akan military system, it signified the rearguard which is the part where the survival of the society and defense of heritage closely depended upon.
Literally, the egg on the bird’s beak represents the unknown and unborn future. Since the bird is in flight, it signifies that history is ever on the move in a forward direction. The bird is common in many African American study courses. It is very important in the study and understanding of a people’s history. It is paramount for us to understand our history before understanding ourselves. The theme of the story centers itself on the issue of going back to the past to grasp an understanding of the present and the future. It is about an African American woman who wakes up to the bitter realization of her people’s collective past. For an individual to understand himself, he must first understand his roots. At the beginning of the movie, Mona clearly neglects her roots. She claims she is an American and not an African. This lack of recognition is an insult to the true or actual race of the woman.
The climax of the movie reaches when Shola receives the Sankofa bird from Shango. Shola has decided to escape from the plantation, but she is captured where she is whipped to rid her of her heathen deeds. She is forced to repent and follow a more Christian way. She remains weeping on her bed where Shango comes and gives her the Sankofa bird. With this she claims to have given her more rebellious attitude and to urge her to continue running and be very strong in the fight against oppression. She has had a non rebellious personality. She even tells Shango never to create more trouble that would lead to his whipping. She gets much confused when she is raped severally by her masters. Shola never works towards gaining any powers, but merely wishes for them. She is contented with her state as a slave, but Shango becomes her only connection to the realization of the wrongs and evils of slavery. With the reception of the Sankofa bird, Shola becomes defiant and stars to attend the rebellion meetings.
Shango implies to the god of thunder and lighting according to the Yoruba culture. He was the fourth king of the Oyo Empire in the ancient Yoruba. The empire has grown to over 30 million people most of who are residing in Nigeria. When he was challenged to the throne, he ran to the forest and hung himself to death. After his death, his properties were set on fire. Some individuals believed he had ascended to heaven and was sending fire down on earth. This is how the god of thunder and lighting came about. He is a sign of power to the Yoruba people.
Nunu reveals the truth about the middle of passage. This is the ever overlooked African enslavement. She uses the idea of spirits to instill fear, pain and death among the others. She goes ahead to use her shamanistic capabilities to help in the delivery of Kuta’s child through caesarian section. This she does after the death of Kuta in a very agonizing situation where Kuta was whipped to death.