Adinkra symbols are named after King Adinkra who was an ivory coast king in the early 19th century. The symbols are still used today. Some Adinkra cloth in Ghana is specifically used for funeral dress. In Ghana, the people revere their ancestors. These mourning robes printed with the sacred symbols show expressions of respect.
The word Adinkra means farewell. So the wearing of the mourning robe is a way for the person to say goodbye to the departed. Since ancestors are held in such high esteem in Ghana, some of the most exquisite examples of Adinkra cloth are worn at funerals.
There are several types of Adinkra cloth. The cloth worn by tribal chiefs have symbols such as think ahead and performing the unusual.
Brightly colored cloth called Kwasida is worn by the people for more festive situations. The cloth is bright, stamped with symbols and tied to togas.
The cloth makers press the patterns into the fabric. They use ancient hand carved stamps made from the calabash gourd. The dye is made from the bark of the Kuntunki tree. The bark is boiled with iron slag and then made into a paste called Adinkra aduru. The gourds with the symbols are attached to short sticks. They are then dipped in the dye and stamped on the cloth.
The cloth makers divide the sections with linear designs and use repeat patterns or tessellations to create the beautiful work. The symbols hold great meaning.
Each Adinkra symbol has a name and a meaning. The first Adinkra symbol made meant royalty. This is the basis of Adinkra.
Adinkra symbols continue to change as new influences impact Ghanaian culture. For example, the Mercedes Benz logo, the star, has been adopted by the cloth makers. It now represents power and prestige in Ghana.