The Sankofa is a mystical symbol and recurring theme in Taboo. Branded on James Delaney's shoulder blades, it appears engraved on some surfaces on several occasions throughout the series.


After James Delaney discovered that Felice Adventurero, the ship he recently bought was a slave ship, James began to exorcise the ship's hold. After taking off all the clothes and shredding axes and chains, James started chiseling the symbol out on the wooden floor of the ship's hold. (Episode 2)

In the following days, James surprised Winter sleeping in his house cellars and the two briefly conversed about magic and murder. During their conversation, Winters claimed to be aware of the meaning of the mark on James' back, referring to it as Sankofa. Later, James discovered the same symbol carved in the interior of the fireplace in his mother's old bedroom, while looking for clues about his mother. To make the symbol he had just noticed more clear, James blushed soot against the wall, thus exalting the carving that showed the stylized bird folded on itself. When he questioned Brace about it, the servant was unable to see the symbol on the chimney. He was, however, able to see the mark between James's shoulder blades. (Episode 3)

Memorable QuotesEdit

"The bird on your neck. I know what it is! The Sankofa."
― Winter to James Delaney

"I have the very same mark on me from when I was taken prisoner in Africa."
― James to Brace


Episode AppearancesEdit

Season 1


  • Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates as "Go back and get it" (san - to return; ko - to go; fa - to fetch, to seek and take) and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented either with a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back. Sankofa is often associated with the proverb, "Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which translates as: "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten." [1]
    • Twi language of Ghana is the same language spoken by James Delaney during his rituals throughout the series.
  • Apparently, the symbol appears frequently in traditional art and has since been adopted by ex-pat African people around the world to represent the need to reflect on and consider the past in order to build a successful future. Not too far a stretch from James’ dark past, future plans and the themes of this series in general, no? [2]


  1. The Spirituals Project at the University of Denver. "African Tradition, Proverbs, and Sankofa". Archived from the original on 20 April 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  2. What does the bird symbol in Taboo mean?