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Adinkra (ah-DEEN-krah) cloth is a hand-printed fabric made in Ghana. Developed by the Ashanti people, Adinkra cloths were traditionally made for royalty to wear at religious ceremonies. Through the years, people have also decorated the cloths to tell a story or to express their thoughts or feelings.

I've always wanted one of my own — a "royal" spider Adinkra cloth!

Adinkra cloth is stamped and patterned with traditional Ashanti symbols. Each symbol has its own meaning. People in Ghana decorate the cloth by using a black dye made of bark. This dye is called Adinkera aduru, and it is what gives the cloth its name. Using the dye, they draw lines on the cloth to divide it into squares. Next, they carve symbols into calabash gourds, press the gourds into the dye, and stamp the symbols onto the fabric.

You can make an Adrinkra cloth at home!

Tell a story about Africa's most clever spider — Anansi! (That's me!). Make a cloth about your favorite places in Africa! Or about your family!

Things you'll need:

  • Pieces of hard foam
    (you can also use a large rubber eraser, or a sponge)
  • plastic knife
  • tempera paint
  • felt-tip marker
  • construction paper

Using the plastic knife, carve a symbol or design into a piece of foam to make a stamp. You may want to draw your design on paper first and use the picture as a pattern while you're carving. Remember that your symbol needs to be simple enough that it will print clearly. (If you use a sponge for the stamp, you can cut it into your design by using scissors)

Once you have finished your stamp, choose a piece of paper to be your "cloth". Using the felt-tip marker, draw lines or designs on the paper to divide it into squares.

Pour tempera paint onto a plate or tray, so that the paint is just covering the bottom. Dip your stamp into the paint and stamp it onto the paper.

Tell a Story with Your Cloth!

When people in Ghana make Adrinkra cloth, they often create several different designs. By alternating stamps or using different stamps on different parts of the cloth, these designs can tell a story.

Create several different designs and make stamps for each one. Think about what each of the stamps could mean and stamp them onto the paper in an order that tells a story. You may want to leave room at the bottom of the paper to write your story down when you are finished. Or, show your paper to a friend or teacher and tell the story while pointing to the different designs.

Here is another way to make Adinkra cloth! (if you have an adult helper)

If you would like to stamp your designs on real cloth, you may want to use fabric paint or acrylic paint so that you can wash the cloth later. Before stamping the material, put the cloth on top of a layer of newspaper. This will help the image stamp more clearly and keep the table or floor clean.

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Traditional Ashanti Symbols


The Crocodile
(Odenkyem)

He lives in water, yet lives by breathing air.

The Heart
(Sankofa)

This symbols reminds us that we can learn from our past mistakes.

ESE NE TEKREMA
A reminder of the need for friendships and sharing.

Moon and Star
(Osrane Ne Nsoroma)

A symbol of faithfulness.

NSAA
A symbol of excellence, a reminder to not settle for anything but your best.

Ram's Head
(Dwennimmen)

A symbol of humility, strength, wisdom, excellence and learning.