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AKAN ADINKRA CLOTH. An introduction to the Akan culture And their beautiful ceremonial Adinkra Cloth. The story of adinkra is ever-evolving and ever-unfolding. It is a insightful journey. I hope that you will enjoy the journey….

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akan adinkra cloth


An introduction to the Akan culture

And their beautiful ceremonial Adinkra Cloth


The story of adinkra is

ever-evolving and ever-unfolding

It is a insightful journey

I hope that you will

enjoy the journey…..


The Akan of Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire have incorporated the

ideographic and pictographic writing systems in their arts in such

media as textiles, metal casting, wood carving, and architecture.

We will study the the decoration of Adinkra cloth using the Akan Symbols.


Funerals are significant in the religious and social lives of the Akan

people. They are the final rites of passage from the world of the living

to that of the “dead” Among the Akan, death is only one more

transition stage in one’s life. In the afterlife, those who have lived

exemplary lives will continue to “live” in a new world and enjoy a

place close to the Supreme Being. A person’s death is mourned as a

loss of a family member but it is also celebrated as the gaining of a

new ancestor. This ancestor lives on in the spirit world.

The wearing of funeral cloths demonstrates a person’s sorrow at

the loss of a family member, friend, or acquaintance. This stamped

cloth used in funerals is called adinkra. The symbols that are stamped

on it are called adinkra symbols.


The adinkra symbols reflect the complexity of traditional Akan social and spiritual existence. These historic Akan symbols depict the panorama of cultural life parables, aphorisms, proverbs, popular sayings and the social standards of the Akan people.



Symbol of pride of state and at the same time a warning against an inflated pride or an inflated ego.


Another Example



mako nyinaa mpatu mmere

All the peppers on the same tree do not

ripen simultaneously.

While there may be some unequal

distribution of natural endowment, Akans

recognize socially created inequalities.

Akans believe in equitable distribution

of goods and services. In the past, for

example, chiefs redistributed wealth to

ensure equitable distribution of goods.



The process of

creating an


adinkra dye adinkra aduro
Adinkra dye (adinkra aduro)
  • The dye is the most sophisticated aspect of adinkra.
  • Is is made by soaking the bark of the bades tree to make it soft.
  • A reddish-brown dye is created.
  • Contemporary cloths use colors of green, yellow, light blue, pink, and gold.
adinkra stamp tool adwennade
Adinkra stamp tool (adwennade)
  • The stamp consists of two parts.
  • The base of the stamp is made from a gourd or calabash - thus it is slightly curved.
  • The handle is made of stiff palm-leaf ribs .
stamping process
Stamping process
  • The fabric is stretch by wooden pegs on level ground.
  • To begin the process, a wooden-forked comb is dipped in dye. Two or more parallel lines are drawn, and then perpendicular lines are drawn to block off rectangular sections.
next the stamps are readied for stamping
Next the stamps are readied for stamping
  • The adinkra motifs are stampeded within the rectangles to indicate various traits of the deceased.
  • There is no fixed number of symbols that may be stamped on a cloth.
  • There may be as many as 15 or

as few as 5.

the cloth is made from separate pieces
The cloth is made from separate pieces
  • Sometimes a colorful stripe will join the sections of cloth along the warp thread line thus, giving the linear appearance of kente cloth.
  • The sections are joined using colorful thread.
  • And sewn in a zigzag pattern known as kawa.
big idea communication through the african arts

Lesson #1

Big Idea:Communication through the African Arts
  • Essential Understandings:
  • Develop communication skills through the arts.
  • Communication through the visual arts is an essential component of African culture.
  • The student will create art works that reflect an ability to interpret the natural environment, cultural expressions, and universal themes.
  • Essential Question:
  • How are symbols used to communicate feelings and ideas on Akan adinkra cloth?
  • Lesson Objective:
  • The students will study the multi layered meanings and definitions of adinkra symbols.
  • Lesson Activities:
  • Students will study adinkra symbols, looking at the stylistic elements involved in the development of these pictograms. They will discuss the literal translations of the symbols and the proverbs and the stories that inspired the symbols. They will analyze the graphic design and stylistic elements of the symbols. Then, the students will practice designing their own symbols that are based on personal myths and legends.
  • Assessment:
  • Students will be able to identify adinkra symbols that communicate their own personality and design some new symbols to represent themselves.
  • Evidence: Students will create thumbnail sketches of 10 adinkra symbols that interpret their personality characteristics.