In West African wisdom, sankofa means to “return and get it”. The sankofa image is typically is a bird with an egg on its back and the phrase “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which means to go back and get it.
But what is meant is more than a return for an object, it is a philosophy of benevolent understanding through reflection. It means that we cannot rush headfirst into life and never look back. Some lessons are not able to be immediately understood. They are imbedded in the past and it is only through reflection that we learn from them.
Sankofa is also about the future. We must care for our whole lives, our present and past, in order to move forward.
When we reflect on what has been, on what in our lives has held us back and what has pushed us on, we absorb the wisdom of the event and are able to do better next time. We are then able to create a better future for ourselves. We will always make mistakes, but as the adage says, let’s hope they are always new ones.
Early in my auctioneering career, I made mistakes. I pushed too hard, or didn’t encourage enough, sometimes I said the wrong thing. It is the acknowledgement of the mistake, and the intent to do better next time that made me a better auctioneer. Now, after twenty-five years, I have gleaned a deep understanding of how best to serve organizations and their goals. But I wouldn’t be where I am now without sometimes looking back and assimilating the good, the bad, and the ugly before moving again forward.
Takes some time to look back and, like the sankofa, bring forward the benevolent lesson that waits for you there.