Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Regional/Adinkra

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Adinkra
British Union

Regional

Skill Level Unknown
Year of Introduction: 2012


Limited Availability



1. Explain the functions of Adinkra symbols.

The Adinkra symbols have a decorative function but also represent objects that encapsulate evocative messages that convey traditional wisdom, aspects of life or the environment.

2. Describe the origin of Adinkra symbols.

The Adinkra symbols are believed to have their origin from Gyaman, a former kingdom in today’s Côte D’Ivoire, otherwise known as the Ivory Coast. According to an Asante (Ghana) legend, Adinkra was the name of a king of the Gyaman (Nana kofi Adinkra). Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle by the Asantes for having copied the “Golden Stool”, which represents for them absolute power and tribal cohesion. He was finally killed and his territory annexed to the kingdom of Asante. The tradition had it that Nana Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being taken to Kumasi, the capital of Asante.

The Asante people around the 19th century then took to painting of traditional symbols of the Gyamans onto cloth, a tradition that was well practiced by the latter. Adinkra also means "goodbye" or "farewell" in Twi, the language of the Akan ethnic group of which Asante is a part. It has therefore been the tradition of the Akan, especially the Asante, to wear cloths decorated with Adinkra symbols on important occasions especially at funerals of family relations and friends. This is to signify their sorrow and to bid farewell to the deceased.

Today, the Asante people do not exclusively wear the Adinkra cloth. It is worn by other ethnic groups in Ghana on a variety of social gatherings and festive occasions either than funerals.

3. What is the significance of the Adinkra symbols?

The Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante. They mostly have rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play an important role in the Asante culture. The use of proverbs is considered as a mark of wisdom. Other Adinkra symbols depict historical events, human behaviour and attitudes, animal behaviour, plant life forms and shapes of objects.

In fact, the Adinkra symbols continue to change as new influences impact on Ghanaian culture as some of the symbols now record specific technological developments.

4. What is the Biblical significance of symbols?

Throughout the bible, God used symbols and signs to communicate to man. From the leading of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, Daniel’s prophecy and the vision of John in Revelation, signs and symbols played an important role in how God communicated with His children. Bible verses that reflect the use of symbols and signs are: Genesis 9:13, Isaiah 57:8, and Hebrews 9:25.

5. What are the three main types of Adinkra?

The three most important funerary Adinkra are the dark-brown (kuntunkuni), the brick-red (kobene), and the black (brisi). There are, however, other forms of which cannot be properly called mourning cloth. Their bright and light backgrounds classify them as Kwasiada Adinkra (Sunday Adinkra) which cannot be suitable for funerary contents but appropriate for most festive occasions or even daily wear.

6. What are the other uses of Adinkra symbols?

Adinkra symbols can be described as small, symbolic pictures or motives used to decorate colorful patterned cloth by fashion designers in Ghana. Designers in modern times use Adinkra symbols in creating and decorating other accessories than cloth. Other artisans/crafts men such as sculptors, carpenters, and architects also use the symbols to design their products. Some corporate institutions in Ghana now use the Adinkra symbols as their institutional symbol or logo.

7. Stamp and write a description of five Adinkra symbols.

The making of Adinkra

The Asante people have developed their unique art of Adinkra printing. They use two traditional printing methods; the block-stamp technique (why not work on the Block Printing honor at the same time?), which involves the use of wooden or metal stamps and the screen-printing (why not work on the Silk Screen Printing honor at the same time?). The Adinkra cloth was originally printed from hand-carved stamps from calabash or gourd (apakyiwa). The dye or ink (adinkra aduru) for printing is derived from the bark of the Badie. The bark and roots are soaked in water for days to soften. They are then pounded to increase the softening process. The Badie bark is boiled with iron scraps. When the colour (deep brown) emerges from the pulp it is sieved and engraved onto a piece of calabash or pot.

The Stamps

The various stamps carved from the calabash are tinted with dye and pressed in sequence onto plain cotton cloth, pegged on the ground (these days raised platforms with sack covering act as the printing table). In recent times, imported cloth is used as the background of the cloth. Sometimes the various symbols are used on one fabric and this also has its significance. The designing is done according to the message the wearer or owner of the cloth intends to convey to the participants of the event.

The quality of the cloth also shows the status of the one wearing it. The original Adinkra cloth is not meant to be washed since it fade easily as a result of the natural ink used without any chemical additives. Today, other types of cloth are used with the same Adinkra motives but stamped in indelible colors using the batik method. Ntonso, a town in the Ashanti Region is noted for Adinkra cloth production. It is popularly acknowledged as the “Home of Adinkra."

8. Know at least 10 Adinkra symbols from the selected 20.

Symbol Name Meaning
Adinkrahene Adinkra symbol.png Adinkrahene “Chief of the adinkra symbols”, symbol of greatness, charisma and leadership. This symbol is said to have played an inspiring role in the designing of other symbols. It signifies the importance of playing a leadership role.
Akoben Adinkra symbol.png Akoben “War horn”, symbol of vigilance and wariness. The Akoben is a horn used to sound a battle cry.
Akofena Adinkra symbol.png Akofena (Sword of war) Symbol of courage, valor, and heroism. The crossed swords were a popular motif in the heraldic shields of many former Akan states. In addition to recognizing courage and valor, the swords can represent legitimate state authority.
Akoko Nan Adinkra symbol.png Akoko Nan (The leg of a hen) Symbol of nurturing and discipline. The full name of this symbol translates to “The hen treads on her chicks, but she does not kill them.” This represents the ideal nature of parents, being both protective and corrective. An exhortation to nurture children, but a warning not to pamper them.
Aya Adinkra symbol.png Aya (Fern) Symbol of endurance and resourcefulness. The fern is a hardy plant that can grow in difficult places. “An individual who wears this symbol suggests that he has endured many adversities and outlasted much difficulty.”
Duafe Adinkra symbol.png Duafe (Wooden comb) Symbol of beauty and cleanliness; symbols of desirable feminine qualities. The meaning of this symbol is characterized slightly differently in “The Adinkra Dictionary” and “The Values of Adinkra Symbols”; the former emphasizes more abstract qualities of feminine goodness, love and care, while the latter has a more literal interpretation, looking one’s best and good hygiene. In any case, the duafe was a prized possession of the Akan woman, used to comb and plait her hair.
Funtunfunefudenktemfunefu Adinkra symbol.png Funtunfunefudenktemfunefu (Siamese crocodiles) Symbol of democracy and unity. The Siamese crocodiles share one stomach, yet they fight over food. This popular symbol is a reminder that infighting and tribalism is harmful to all who engage in it.
Gye Nyame Adinkra symbol.png Gye Nyame (Except for God) This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is by far the most popular for use in decoration, a reflection on the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian people.
Nea Onnim No Sua A, Ohu Adinkra symbol.png Nea Onnim No Sua A, Ohu “He who does not know can know from learning” symbol of knowledge, life-long education, and continued quest for knowledge.
Nkyinkyim Adinkra symbol.png Nkyinkyim “Twisting”, symbol of initiative, dynamism and versatility.
Nyame Biribi Wo Soro Adinkra symbol.png Nyame Biribi Wo Soro (God is in the heavens) Symbol of hope. A reminder that God’s dwelling place is in Heaven, where He can listen to all prayers.
Nyame Dua Adinkra symbol.png Nyame Dua ("Tree of God" -- altar) Symbol of God’s presence and protection. The Nyame Dua is a sacred spot where rituals are performed. Erected in front of the house or compound, it is crafted from a tree that has been cut where three or more branches come together. This stake holds an earthenware vessel filled with water and herbs or other symbolic materials for purification and blessing rituals.
Nyame Nnwu Na Mawu Adinkra symbol.png Nyame Nnwu Na Mawu (God never dies, therefore I cannot die) Symbol of God’s omnipresence and the perpetual existence of man’s spirit. This signifies the immortality of man’s soul, believed to be a part of God. Because the soul rests with God after death, it cannot die.
Nyame Nti Adinkra symbol.png Nyame Nti (By God's grace) Symbol of faith and trust in God. This stalk is depicted as the staff of life in many cultures. It symbolizes to the Akan that food is a basis of life and that they could not survive if not for the food that God has placed here on Earth for their nourishment.
Nyame Ye Ohene Adinkra symbol.png Nyame Ye Ohene (God is King) Symbol of majesty and supremacy of God
Nyansapo Adinkra symbol.png Nyansapo (Wisdom knot) symbol of wisdom, ingenuity, intelligence, and patience. An especially revered symbol of the Akan, this symbol conveys the idea that “a wise person has the capacity to choose the best means to attain a goal. Being wise implies broad knowledge, learning and experience, and the ability to apply such faculties to practical ends.”
Sankofa Adinkra symbol.png Sankofa (Return and get it) Symbol of importance of learning from the past. As humans we are vulnerable to make mistakes, but an ability to reflect on the mistake to address what went wrong defines the person’s character of endurance.
Sesa Wo Suban Adinkra symbol.png Sesa Wo Suban (Change or transform your character) Symbol of life, transformation. This symbol combines two separate Adinkra symbols, the “Morning Star” which can mean a new start to the day, placed inside the wheel, representing rotation or independent movement.
Woford Dua Pa A Adinkra symbol.png Woford Dua Pa A (When you climb a good tree) Symbol of support, cooperation and encouragement from the expression “Woforo dua pa a, na yepia wo” meaning “When you climb a good tree, you are given a push”. More metaphorically, it means that when you work for a good cause, you will get support.

9. Draw the Adinkra Temple symbol.

Temple Adinkra symbol.png

10. Stamp at least three different types of Adinkra symbols of your choice (in your preferred pattern) in the Adinkra cloth design grid.

Adinkra Cloth Design Grid.png

References