The meaning of the fern

I have been asked many times what the meaning of the ‘fern thing’ is. To this I usually say the symbol means many things, and has a long and decorated history in my life. Here is my attempt to explain the traditional meaning of the symbol, as well as its significance in my life.

My logo is called ‘AYA’, and it is the Adinkra symbol of the fern. The word aya can mean ‘I am not afraid of you’ or ‘I am independent of you’. It is the symbol of endurance and resourcefulness. According to the Adinkra dictionary: “the fern is a hardy plant that can grow in difficult places. An individual who wears this symbol suggests he has endured many adversities and outlasted much difficulty.” It is 1 of 53 original Adinkra symbols created by the Akan people, an ethnic group native to Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The symbols were used to convey wisdom, aspects of life, or the environment. Traditionally, this symbol was worn or displayed by individuals who were defiant in times of difficulty, displayed hardness and perseverance, and were known for their independence and resourcefulness.

I originally found this symbol in my junior year of high school. I was instantly attracted to the image and what it meant. It became my computer background, and has remained there for inspiration ever since. I always planned to get it as a tattoo along with the runner that is now on my ankle. The runner was a symbol I drew in high school to commemorate and celebrate the impact running has in my life. The fern on the other hand, just spoke to me. The idea of being independent, hard nosed, unshakeable; it stood for everything I aspired to be. I spent 6 years trying to decide when to get this tattoo. My procrastination revolved around the original definition, which clarifies aya is worn by those who have ‘outlasted much difficulty’. To me, this symbol was a sign of wisdom, worn by those who had been through trying times. Though I have always worked hard, and have had my own list of adversity in life (as does everybody), I never felt I deserved to wear the symbol.

Finally my senior year of college came around, and I decided I wanted to get the tattoo to celebrate my graduation. As the plan progressed, I still felt that I hadn’t overcome enough adversity to wear this symbol. That’s when it hit me. I have always been attracted to the symbol because it is an ideal I aspire to maintain throughout my life. My desire to constantly move forward, tendency to seek independence, and remain resilient in hard times, are all traits I work very hard to prioritize. These traits are present, and with life’s experiences, can be built upon. This epiphany helped me identify how I affiliated with the symbol.

It also realized that the AYA represented the lessons my grandparents instilled upon me. This symbol represents my grandparents, and the life they lived. I decided to get this tattoo after I graduated, but added my grandparent’s initials, RLW, underneath it. When I got the tattoo, my grandfather’s health was deteriorating quickly. I was happy to be able to show it to him before he passed away, so he could see my visual representation of the magnitude of his influence.

In the summer of 2013, just over a year later, I sat in my grandfather’s chair, filing the paperwork for my newly formed company. My need for a business symbol was instantly a non-issue. The AYA, which has come to represent so much in my life, is truly representative of the challenge I present all my clients. No matter what the obstacle is, whether physical, emotional, perceived or real, you can over come it. Standing tall in the face of adversity is what my grandparents did, its what I was raised to do, and it is what I know all of my clients can do.