“Help me and let me help you”
An Adinkra symbol of cooperation and interdependence
African symbols known as Adinkra are ubiquitous in Ghana, a West African nation situated between Cote d’Ivoire and Togo. Historically, Adinkra symbols were developed by the Ashante people of West Africa and can be traced back to the 17th century. The word “Adinkra” means “goodbye” for originally clothes adorned with Adinkra symbols were worn only during ceremonies to honor the dead. The symbols worn on the mourner’s clothing expressed the qualities attributed to the deceased. The Ashante people living in the modern African countries of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire still stamp Adinkra symbols on cloth. The symbols are created by cutting a stamp out of the thick skin of a calabash gourd, the stamp is dipped into dye created from tree bark and then repeatedly pressed onto cloth to create patterns. Each of the stylized patterns has a name and meaning based upon a proverb or historical legend. The shapes of humans, animals, plants and other objects inspire the creation of geometric forms from the symbols, providing a remarkable display of the values of the Ashante people which has been developed over many, many generations. And, the tradition continues to flourish in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire today. In fact, Adinkra cloth is widely worn at many social functions in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and elsewhere for everyday wear, bridal, formal as well as other special occasions.
* Source: “Cloth as Metaphor” by G. F. Kojo Arthur