We all have unique traditions, foods, clothes, songs, and special ways of socializing that define our cultures. But have you ever been afraid to share your culture because you were worried about how others would accept that part of you?
Learning how to be comfortable with who you are takes a lot of courage and love—and often our loved ones are the first to teach us this valuable lesson.
In Tricia Elam Walker’s children’s book Nana Akua Goes to School, we meet a young girl named Zura as she embarks on that journey. Grandparent’s Day is happening soon at her school and everyone is excited. Although Zura is looking forward to sharing her favorite person with the class, she’s nervous about how her classmates will react to her Nana Akua, who has tribal marks on her face.
Learning how to be comfortable with who you are takes a lot of courage and love
Nana Akua assures Zura the class will be able to see the beauty in their culture. They decide to present a lovely, brightly colored handmade family quilt that includes more than 50 important Adinkra symbols.
Thanks to April Harrison’s beautiful illustrations, readers get to experience the beauty and distinction of each symbol. The symbols pay homage to the Akan tradition and can be worn as a reminder of sayings known in West African culture.
“While the Adinkra symbols and their meanings have been preserved in modern-day Ghana,” author Tricia Elam Walker explains in the book’s forward, “grandparents and great-grandparents of today’s children are the last generations to bear evidence of the tribal marking tradition.”
Adinkra symbols and their meanings are usually passed down by oral stories from elders, but you also see them used in art, jewelry, and sometimes as tribal scars. Zuri traces some of her favorite symbols—like creativity and wisdom—and gets excited again to present her Nana and culture to the class.
Nana Akua Goes to School is an authentic exploration of culture.
With a new appreciation for her heritage, Nana Akua and Zura go to school on Grandparents’ Day dressed in African attire, ready to celebrate their Ghanian culture with her class. (They even find another special way to share Adinkra symbols with her classmates.)
Tricia Elam Walker’s words paired with April Harrison’s illustrations capture the bond between Zura and Nana Akua and the beauty of West African culture. Readers will be captivated throughout the story with the illustrators colorful collages and stylized strokes combined with warm energetic patterns.
Much like Zura and her classmates learn about Ghanaian culture, so do readers. The author became familiar with West African culture after enrolling her children in “African-centered schools, attracted by those institutions’ appreciation for Africa’s many diverse cultures,” she writes. Along with having a symbology guide for the Adinkra symbols featured in the book, she also includes a glossary of West African terms.
Nana Akua Goes to School is an authentic exploration of culture. Whether this is your introduction to Ghanian culture or you’re looking for a way to broaden a young reader’s world, Zura and Nana Akua’s story will warm your heart.