The history behind the Adrinka fabric of Ghana

“One head alone does not go into council” – Ghanian proverb

Fabric, in the African culture, is more than just a piece of cloth. It is surrounded by culture and traditions, expresses arts and emotions, and reveals history. The Adrinka fabric of Ghana is a prime example of this! The Akan people of Ghana developed Adrinka symbols as a form of communication. Adrinka is an Akan word that means goodbye and most specifically, farewell to the dead. Adrinka symbols were handprinted on cloths using stamps carved from sections of gourd.

Interesting facts related to Adinkra:

  • The corpses of 20,000 people were stumbled upon in 1991 while construction work was being done on a Manhattan skyscraper. It was eventually brought to the light that those corpses were enslaved Africans brought by the Dutch and the British for the development of New York. A majority of these individuals were discovered to be people from modern day Ghana, as the Sankofa Adrinka symbol was seen on one of the remains. The remains were respectfully reburied and a marble monument with Adrinka symbols engraved on it was erected in honor of them.
  • History has it that the Gyaamans (a medieval Akan people from 1450-1895, located in what is now the peninsula Ashantiland and Cote d’Ivoire.) tried to copy the Asante’s golden stool which led to conflict between the two tribes. In the feud, the Gyaaman king was killed and his robe was seized by the Asante king as a trophy. The robe unveiled the special ink the Gyaaman tribe used to stamp designs on to their fabrics. This technique became part and parcel of the Asante tradition.

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