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The Origin and Meaning of Adinkra Symbols
Adinkra is a cotton cloth produced in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire which has traditional Akan symbols stamped upon it. The adinkra symbols represent popular proverbs and maxims, record historical events, express particular attitudes or behaviour related to depicted figures, or concepts uniquely related to abstract shapes. It is one of several traditional cloths produced in the region ± the other well known cloths being kente and adanudo.
The Akan people (of what is now Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire) had developed significant skills in weaving by the sixteenth century, with Nsoko (present day Begho) an important weaving centre. Adinkra, originally produced by the Gyaaman clans of the Brong region, was the exclusive right of royalty and spiritual leaders, and only used for important ceremonies such as funerals ± adinkra means 'goodbye'. During a military conflict at the beginning of the nineteenth century, caused by the Gyaaman trying to copy the neighbouring Asante's 'golden stool' (the symbol of the Asante nation), the Gyaaman king was killed. His adinkra robe was taken by Nana Osei Bonsu-Panyin, the Asante Hene (Asante King), as a trophy. With the robe came the knowledge of adinkra aduru (the special ink used in the printing process) and the process of stamping the designs onto cotton cloth. Over time the Asante further developed adinkra symbology, incorporating their own philosophies, folk-tales and culture. Adinkra symbols were also used on pottery, metal work (especially abosodee), and are now incorporated into modern commercial designs (where their related meanings give added significance to the product), architecture and sculpture.
Adinkra cloth is more widely available today, although the traditional methods of production are very much in use. The traditional ink (adinkra aduru) used for stamping is obtained by boiling the bark of the Badie tree with iron slag. (Because the ink is not fixed, the material should not be washed!) Adinkra cloth is used in Ghana for special occasions such as weddings and initiation rites.
Note that African fabrics often differ between those made for local use - usually replete with hidden meanings or local proverbs - allowing locals to make a particular statements with their costume ± and those fabrics produced for overseas markets which tend to use more 'sanitised' symbology.
Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, that represent concepts or aphorisms. Adinkra are used on fabric, walls, in pottery, woodcarvings and logos. Fabric adinkra are often made by woodcut sign writing as well as screen printing. They also can be used to communicate evocative messages that represent parts of their life or those around them.
Michelle Dressler Introduction: Adinkra cloth is a hand printed fabric. The origin of Adinkra cloth is traced to the Ashanti people of Ghana. Initially the cloths were made for royalty to be worn at religious ceremonies. Adinkra cloth is decorated with traditional symbols that covey the thoughts and feelings of the person wearing them. The fabric of adinkra cloth is divided into squares by lines drawn using a bark dye and then stamped with gourds that have been carved with designs.
They should explain how their prints are reflective of traditional Ghana culture and the land. Explain how the Ashanti people of Ghana once used adinkra cloths exclusively for royalty but in recent years that has changed.
Ghana has the highest percentage of Christians in West Africa, but the belief in traditional animist religions is still extremely common. Adinkra Symbols is one of the highly valued hand-printed and hand-embroidered cloths. Its origin is traced to the Asante people of Ghana and the Gyaman people of Cote' d'lvoire (Ivory Coast). However, the production and use of Adinkra have come to be more associated with the Asante people than any other group of people. Around the 19th Century, the Asante people developed their unique art of adinkra printing. Adinkra clothes were made and used exclusively by the royalty and spiritual leaders for very important sacred ceremonies and rituals.
Musuyide ± 'sanctity'. Also known as Keerape Symbol represents sanctity and spiritual purity. The associated proverb is "sanctity, like the cat, abhores filth", but the motif is also considered a talisman against bad luck.
Kode Emower Ewa ± 'talons of the eagle'. Symbol represents devotion and service. This symbol was shaved on the back of the heads of the Queen Mother's servants.
Nyame-Nti ± 'faith in God'. Also known as Adwera ± a river plant. Symbol represents consecration, cleanliness, chastity, purity, and faith in God. The proverb related to Adwera says that "the water of life sustains through its purity", a recommendation to the life of the virtuous and pious.
Osrane ne nsoroma (Ram¶s horns) Wisdom, learning, humility
This African Andikra fabric has many symbols, each of which tells a story. What¶s in a fabric? The patterns and prints that make up the imagery of many fabrics have rich histories and can tell amazing stories. This well researched article by Nickolas Miller tells about the history of an amazing African fabric print and describes its rich symbolism and vibrant colors. So, what¶s in a fabric? Read on. You might just be amazed. ~Karen This beautiful African fabric print is rich with symbolism and vibrant colors. More specifically, this fabric is a classic example of Adinkra cloth, which can be thought of as an artistic symbolist code, using artistic variations of specific symbols to convey certain ideas and messages. This traditional cloth originates from the Akan, the primary ethnic group of Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), located in western Africa. In line with tradition, a multitude of patterns, such as this one, are sewn together to form the complete garment. Considering that this pattern alone has four specific symbols including the background color, these garments are very complex in symbolism and in many cases tell entire stories. In fact, many of the Adinkra symbols are based on cultural fables. Other than fables and stories, themes of these beautiful garments and dresses include social and political organization, ethical beliefs and attitudes, and general knowledge, wisdom, or education.
So let¶s look closely at what the colors and symbols in this wonderful fabric mean! The first thing is the colors. Traditionally, rich, bright and vibrant colors, such as the bold red of this fabric, are symbolic of happiness and joy. Garbs made from these fabrics were commonly used ceremoniously in African culture, so akin to the culture, this fabric would be used for celebrations, such as a marriage. Culturally, rusty dark shades and darker shades of vermilion are considered taboo and reserved specifically for times of mourning. The gold color represents royalty or power, as well as the natural abundance of gold resources in the country (it was called the ³Gold Coast´ for a reason!). The printing on this fabric has a moderate metallic sheen, done to reproduce the traditional method of stamping the patterns onto the cloth with a wooden stamp carved from calabash wood. This stamp is dipped into a special dye, and then pressed into the fabric to produce the pattern. What about the fabric symbols? The first symbol is the lizard shaped pattern. This symbol is the
denkyem, which literally translates to ³crocodile´. The symbol represents adaptability, illustrated by the fact that ³crocodiles live in the water, yet still breathe air.´ The second pattern is the combination of a cross and a diamond, located between the crocodiles. This is a variation of the symbol eban, which translates to ³fence´. This symbolizes safety and security. This can be safety and security one feels with an actual fence, or figuratively with the love and company of others. In a national sense, it represents sovereignty and national unity. The final symbol is the seat. This is actually the seat of royalty, known as the Golden Ashanti Stool. According to legend, this stool floated down from the heavens into the lap of the first leader of
the Ashanti allegiance, Osei Tutu I, who united the Ashanti tribes and went on to defeat the Denkyira for their independence. This seat is believed to contain the Sunsum ± the soulful spirit of the Ashanti people. In essence, this seat is a symbol of national unity and pride. All together, these symbols convey an overall message of national unity, pride, security, and
perseverance in a forever changing world. But again, these are symbols, and are thus open for interpretation when added together. All in all, this is a beautiful fabric rich with color and culture. Obviously it doesn¶t need to be used to make a traditional Adinkra ceremonial garb. You can use it to make whatever you wish! Hopefully this simple article will allow you to appreciate the wonderful tradition of Adinkra cloth, and whether or not you buy it, this writer hopes you learned something interesting.