Nyame Nnwu na Mawu [Symbol of Immortality]
Name/Theme: Nyame nnwu na mawu/immortality
Proverb: ‘Nyame nnwu na mawu’
Literal Translation: May Nyame/God die before I die or God never dies, therefore I cannot die (Rattray, 1959: 267)
Meaning: Nyame refers to God, nnwu means dies not and na mawu means for me to die. This proverb signifies the immortality of man’s soul which is believed to be part of God’s. After death the soul returns to God and stays perpetually, because God never dies.
Background: It is believed that the ‘Okra’ (soul) is part of God’s soul given to mankind. This gives man life; and at death, the okra which is immortal returns to God. Because the okra is part of God, it can only die when God himself is dead. However since God cannot die, the okra can also not die. Immortality is an unending existence of the soul after physical death. The doctrine of immortality is common to Asante culture; however, it takes various forms, ranging from ultimate extinction of the soul to its final survival and the resurrection of the body by the Christians or the ultimate absorption of the soul into the “universal spirit” after death by the natives of Asante. In Asante religion, entrance to immortal life is dependent on the results of divine examination of the merits of an individual's life by the gods.
Moral Value: The proverb stresses the belief in life after death and the need to lead exemplary lives to attain an ancestral status after death. It encourages people to set targets for themselves and achieve them. This is a symbol of immortality or perpetual existence.
Originator: komfo Anokye the high priest of the Asante kingdom is believed to have originated the symbol (Nana Agya Bedu-2007 a Master Artisan at Ntonso). The year of its origination is unknown but it is believed to be during the reign of Nana Osei Tutu I the founder of the Asante kingdom, who ruled Ashanti kingdom from (1695-1719).
Extract from Cultural Symbolism in Asante Traditional Textiles by ABRAHAM EKOW ASMAH
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