The Adinkra Symbols

Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d’Ivoire in West Afrika that represent concepts or original thoughts. 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.


One version of Adinkra history starts it in the early nineteenth century. There was a war between two kings. Adinkera, king of Gyaman (now La cote d’Ivoire), attempted to copy the designs of the sacred Golden Stool. The Golden Stool was the unifying force of the Asante Nation. This sacrilegious attempt angered the Asantehene, the Ashanti king Nana Osei Bonsu-Panyin. In the war, Adinkera was defeated and killed. The cloth that King Adinkera wore in battle was taken by the Asante as a trophy. With the cloth, the Asante brought with them the art of stamping cloth.

In Afrika a great deal of philosophical material is embedded in the proverbs, myth, and folk-tales, folksongs, rituals, beliefs, customs, and traditions of the people.

Adinkra means goodbye. Originally, the cloth was worn only by the royalty and spiritual leaders for mourning during funeral services. It can now be worn by anyone for any occasion. The symbols and their meanings are still used to convey a message.

Adinkera aduru (Adinkera medicine) is the stuff used in the stamping process. It is prepared by boiling the bark of Badie together with iron slag. Originally the printing was done on a cotton piece lying on the ground. Today, raised platforms with sack coverings act as the printing table. The designs, cut on pieces of calabash with pieces of wood attached for handling, are dipped into the Adinkera aduru, then stamped onto the cloth. Adinkera cloth is not meant to be washed. [1]

–Courtesy of



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