The making of Adinkra cloths is a long established tradition among the Ashanti people of Ghana. The center of this production is the town of Ntonso, one of the craft-making villages surrounding the city of Kumasi, the historic capital of the Ashanti Kingdom, and the center of the creation of so many extraordinary crafts originally produced for the royal court.
Traditionally worn as mourning cloths (with a background color of black, red or brown) they are also quite commonly worn today at festive occasions (more typically those with a white, or other bright colored background). Designs on the cloths are made using stamping blocks, which are made by carving into small pieces of calabash gourds. This is the tradional method, today you will also find artists in Ntonso experimenting with other designs and techniques, such as stamps made from foam, and also silkscreening.
Most of the Adinkra stamps below are from a collection of Timothy Garrard, a lawyer and an archaeologist who wrote about the gold trade and Ghana's goldweights. The stamps have been used extensively in the printing of cloths, they are beautifully and delicately carved, and show that wonderful patina from use.
Each Adinkra symbol has a name and represents a saying or a proverb. We did our best to identify each one in this collection and those we were not sure about are labeled with a question mark. But for the sake of accuracy, please don't take our own identification of these symbols as gospel truth, it would be better to go to the sources we used! (see references at bottom of page)