Kumasi with Anna – Adinkra

One of the interesting things about the different accounts of the life of Jesus as preserved in our New Testament, is the ordering of the events. Mark & Matthew pretty much agree, John is just way different, and Luke has the same events as Mark & Matthew, just a different travel itinerary. The Kumasi blogs are written from the Luken tradition, or as my dear former pastor David Gilliam used to say about the Bible, “I’m not sure it happened that way, but I know its all true!”

Visiting the “Adinkra Village”

The next day Anna and I visited Ntonso, one of the main Adinkra villages just north of Kumasi, and very near Ankaase, where we had spent the night with Cam & Anne Gongwer [http://buchele.blogspot.com/2008/04/kumasi-kente.html] Osei, our Kente Village guide, had lined up a guide for Ntonso, a friend of his who was trying to replicate the village tour of Adanwomase, but has, in my opinion, a long way to go. At the end of the tour I tried to buy two yards of Adinkra cloth to have a funeral shirt made and the artist wanted $60, that’s $30 a yard. I could buy a whole piece (that’s 12 yards) for $70. I offered him $10 (twice the going rate), and he got offended (something I’ve not seen a Ghanaian do before in the bargaining process). Usually, when a seller quotes a ridiculously high price, and I counter with an equally ridiculous low price, we all laugh, and then inch (or should I say centimeter) toward something reasonable. But not this guy, which is why I didn’t come away with any Adinkra cloth, something I really wanted to do, even though I know Suzanne would (quite rightly) ask, “What are you going to do with that?!” So I guess I should be thankful, but…

I grew up with a dark blue Adinkra cloth that was used at one time or another as a bed spread, table cloth, or chair cover. I carried it around through college and its afterlife as a reminder of Ghana and today, wish I knew what happened to it. I suspect it didn’t survive a washing after it started to smell musty, and got washed. Adinkra cloth is never to be washed.
Years ago, Adinkra cloth was only to be worn at funerals, but today, its symbols are all over Ghana, but the black on black cloth is still reserved for funerals.

[Funeral Clothes – picture by MB]

The process is an ancient one, passed down from one generation to the next, one that still uses the traditional materials of root and bark from two different trees. First the cloth is made black in a several step process using dye made from the roots of the Kuntunkuni tree, which is comes from Northern Ghana. For the symbols, its a black and shiny, thick dye, that is made from the bark of the Badie tree. First the bark is separated, then boiled, pounded, then boiled, strained, then boiled, and boiled again until it its a thick syrup, which they call medicine or adinkra aduru.

[Badie Tree bark for the dye stamp]

[boiling pots] – notice the non-traditional engine blocks, or brocks as they are called here. [Anna helps pounding it]
[each pots reduces it, until it’s a a thick syrup]
After the medicine or adinkra aduru cools, Adinkra stamps are dipped in the thick, syrupy dye and either stamped on the cloth, or silk screened on to it and left to dry in the sun.
[box of Adinkra symbols stamps]
[close-up of the stamp, NYAME BIRIBI WO SORO – “God is in the heavens,” which is symbol of hope and a reminder that God’s dwelling place is in the heaven, where he can listen to all prayers.

[silk screening symbols]

[black on black cloth drying in the sun]

Though stamping is the more traditional of the process’, I’m seeing the product of silk screening more and more, and the dyes are now a days other colors, like brown.

For more information on the meaning of Adinkra Symbols, [click here], or for a fun kid activity follow this link to Oxfam.

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