What Does Janet Jackson's Wrist Tattoo Mean?


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The tattoo that appears on Janet Jackson's right wrist is a symbol known as a Sankofa and has its origins in West Africa, and specifically the Akan kingdoms of what is modern-day Ghana.

The meaning of the Sankofa?

The symbol of the 'sankofa' refers to the  Asante Adinkra representation of a bird taking an egg off its back. Sometimes this concept is portrayed with the arching neck of the duck over its body stylized to form a heart shape.

The proverb that is often associated with this symbol is It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten, and the bird is an important character that features prominently in Akan art and culture.

Importance of the Sankofa to African American culture

Although the historic meaning of the Sankofa may have been of interest to Janet Jackson, it is more likely that the singer opted to get the tattoo as a nod to her African-American heritage.

Indeed, the Sankofa has, in recent times, become something of an emblem for African-American pride, with the design appearing in everything from jewellery, necklaces, clothing and of course tattoos.

African Burial Ground National Monument

One example of the important role the Sankofa has played in African-American history was highlighted as recently as 1991 - when workers uncovered what is believed to be the largest colonial-era burial site of African-American slaves during excavations between Duane Street and Elk Street in Lower Manhattan, New York.

The remains of 400 people were subsequently discovered, although historians estimate the true number buried at the site to be in the tens of thousands.

One of the most notable coffins to be unearthed was a wooden casket with 51 tacks nailed into its lid in the shape of a Sankofa. This site became known as the African Burial Ground National Monument, and is recognized on the US register of historic places.

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