Tradition has it that Adinkra, a famous king of Gyaman (now part of Cote d’Ivoire) angered the Asantehene, Bonsu-Panyin, by trying to copy the Golden Stool. Adinkra was defeated and slain in an ensuing war. It has been suggested that the art of adinkra came from Gyaman. It is also significant that adinkra means farewell, or good-bye, hence the use of the special cloth on funeral occasions (eyie), to say good-bye to the departed.
Adinkra aduru (adinkra 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. Adinkra cloth is not meant to be washed.
Adinkra 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 cloths were made and used exclusively by the royalty and spiritual leaders for very important sacred ceremonies and rituals.
In modern times, however, adinkra cloths are used for a wide range of social activities. In addition to its sacred usage, it is also used to make clothing for such special occasions as festivals, churchgoing, weddings, naming ceremonies and initiation rites. Today, designers use adinkra symbols in creating a wide range of products including clothing accessories, interior decoration, packages and book covers.
Each of the motifs that make up the corpus of adinkra symbolism has a name and meaning derived either from a proverb, a historical event, human attitude, animal behavior, plant life, forms and shapes of inanimate and man-made objects. These are graphically rendered in stylized geometric shapes. Meanings of motifs may be categorized as follows: aesthetics, ethics, human relations and religious concepts. In its totality, adinkra symbolism is a visual representation of social thought relating to the history, philosophy and religious beliefs of the Akan people of Ghana and Cote d’lvoire.
FUNTUNFUNEFU DENKYEMFUNEFU – “siamese crocodiles” democracy, unity in diversity
The Siamese crocodiles share one stomach, yet they fight over food. This popular symbol is a remind that infighting and tribalism is harmful to all who engage in it.
GYE NYAME -“except for God” supremacy of God
This is a popular symbol found throughout Ghana in all aspects of Ghana’s rich culture.
Symbol of the omnipotence and the omnipresence of God. (Fear no one, except God.) From the Akan aphorism “Abode santann yi firi tete; obi nte ase a onim ne ahyease, na obi ntena ase nkosi ne awie, gye Nyame.” Literal translation: “This great panorama of creation dates back to time immemorial; no one lives who saw its beginning and no one will live to see its end, except God.”
The symbol reflects the Akan belief of a supreme being, the creator who they refer to by various names, e.g., Oboadee, Nyame, Onyankopon Twereampon.
HYE WONHYE -“that which cannot be burnt” imperishability, endurance
In times of old, some priests were noted for their ability to dance through fire without burning their feet. In the same way, some people can overcome all forms of hardship or difficulties – being .
KWATAKYE ATIKO -“hairstyle of Kwatakye, a war hero” bravery, valor
This symbol has come to represent bravery and fearlessness. It is also given as an earned title to any brave son of an Akan community.