Like the Irish Claddagh ring that symbolises love and friendship, the nyaminyami symbolises love for all and the practise of Ubuntu. Other African symbols can represent power, fertility and a hundred other things that African considered necessary in their lives – from protection from evil to honouring their ancestors. Love symbols in African culture include the Zulu love beads – but as a single African symbol for love – maybe the nyaminyami. It is certainly a great symbol for Ubuntu!
In African culture, symbols represent the world around …. the connection with the natural surroundings is very strong. Symbols using animals, trees and the other world are used in charms and talismans. Sangomas and witch doctors have their own trinkets that represent their particular trade – and are used in the making of spells and muthi – but these cannot really be said to be symbols as we understand them – they are specific to a certain trade or science. Tribal symbols are represented in African masks and carvings. In certain tribes, especially in the Aboriginal tribes, tattoos play a huge part in symbolism – but, again, not specific tattoo for love? These symbols are used for specific rituals and ceremonies. Love symbols in western culture include the heart and the rose. Engagement rings and wedding rings are probably the most widely worn symbols of love. Cuddly toys and soppy cards are also widely given as symbols of love. In modern times tattoos have also been used to show ones commitment to another.
As far as recognised African symbols for love they are few and far between. The Adrinka have what I consider as the most comprehensive range of symbols. The poignant “love does not get lost on it’s way home” symbol is the only African love symbol I could find. A quick search on the Internet will show the same Chinese symbol for love, Celtic love knots and hearts and more hearts.
It is quite strange that such a huge subject and human emotion such as love has no universally recognised symbol (apart from the heart). Even more strange is that each culture does not have a recognised symbol for love. The question “what is love” has been floating around unanswered since time began. Healers and fortune tellers are asked continually for more insight into love, yet the symbols are non existent. Look for love quotes and love poems and you will find thousands of references and material. Every poet, at some stage in his career, has written a love poem, and in fact have most human beings. Why then are there so few symbols for love?
The yin yang and the triquetta have been used often enough as a make do symbol for love – but the true meanings of these symbols are not love – but incorporate love in the holistic meaning, so while they may be used for love they are not actually perfect symbols. I suppose one needs to separate romantic love with true love. One should also find what concept of love is being sought – love for a child, love for a country, love for an object (if such a love is actually real?). Going back in history there are no shortage of love stories – from the Mayans to the ancient Greeks, history is plastered with myths, stories and documented love related incidents – yet no plethora of symbols – perhaps love is such a huge subject with so many facets that one symbol cannot incorporate the entire subject? While this kind of thinking may satisfy the uniformed it leaves more questions than answers. Look for symbols of protection, and every culture has something, look for symbols of luck or fertility – many cultures have a symbol for these – but no love symbol. And if it is such a multifaceted subject, why then are there not many symbols representing all the different facets of love? Apart from the wedding ring which represents love between two people, and in fact commitment, not love – there is no symbol to be found. Do you have an answer – I would love (s) to hear from you on this subject – what are your thoughts?