San – to retrace one’s steps
kϽ - to go
fa – to take
SankϽfa is one of the West African adinkra symbols. The image of a bird looking back with a fragile egg in its mouth reminds us that it is importance to learn from and build on the past, that past experiences must be a guide for the future, and that we must cherish our heritage.
This not-for-profit heritage and arts organisation was established in 2009 through an UnLtd HE Social Entrepreneurship Award. Sankofa engages in project work with community organisations, archives and museums to conduct research into a wide range of heritage topics and develop cross-cultural dialogues through the arts.
Sankofa’s role as an HE social initiative is to facilitate community-led projects in which participants research their heritage, reflect on their findings and express their responses through a variety of artistic mediums. These are shared with the wider community through real-space and online exhibitions, which may include live or recorded performance. The aim is for those who experience the projects - as participants or audience members/visitors - to learn about their past and better understand their present for the sake of their future.
The pilot work for the organisation took place in Leicester, a city with almost 25% foreign-born residents. In 2001 the government identified Leicester as an example of best practice in terms of managing ethnic and racial diversity and the One Leicester initiative has seen Leicester re-branded as “A city where global cultures co-exist.” More than co-existing, Sankofa projects work towards inter-cultural dialogue, understanding and development through collaborative research, international communication and artistic expression.
Sankofa’s work enables project participants to gain skills as researchers, challenges them to interpret their learning together and offers them a broad spectrum of opportunities for articulating and sharing their findings with the wider community.
Sankofa is also a founder-member of the ED:UK coalition, which organises community cohesion projects in the East Midlands. These projects culminate in an annual event to mark Emancipation Day on 1st August. Collaboration with ED:UK, has enabled Sankofa to reach new audiences with projects that have real and tangible legacies.