Adinkra in Ntonso-Ashanti, Ghana
Adinkra cloth was originally only used as a mourning cloth. Today it is also worn on other special occasions. The Boakye family demonstrates, teaches, and sells Adinkra cloth in Ntonso. For a demonstration, to buy Adinkra, to arrange for a class, or for more information, please contact Gabriel Boakye at P. O. Box 4, Ntonso-Ashanti, Ghana, West Africa. Email: adinkrahome@yahoo.com . Telephone: 00 233 24 9977699.
 
ADINKRA ADURO MEDIUM: To make adinkra aduro medium (colorant), the bark and roots of the Badie (Adansonia digitata) tree are harvested, the outer layer is cut away, then the inner bark is broken into pieces and soaked in water for 24 hours. It is then pounded for about 3 hours in a wooden mortar, boiled for several hours in water over a wood fire, strained through a plastic window screen, then boiled for 4 more hours.

CALABASH STAMPS: The inside of a dry, thick-skinned calabash is covered with shea butter for a year to slightly soften it. Then Paul Nyamaah Boakye (telephone: 024345516 and 0243167605) cuts off a piece with a knife, scrapes the outer skin with a knife, draws the pattern onto it with a pencil, then carves away the negative space with a gouge. Paul carves more than 70 different symbols, each of which represents a proverb, belief, or philosophy.

Pieces of raffia palm are hammered into the back of the stamp with a stone, then a cloth is tied over the ends to make a handle.

To keep them bug-free between use, the stamps are soaked for a few minutes in hot adinkra duro. Clogged grooves are scraped clean before printing.

ADINKRA CLOTH PRINTING: Wooden planks resting on blocks were covered with a 1" thick piece of foam rubber. Several  symbols (which have specific meanings) were chosen from an Adinkra chart, then Gabriel Boayke selected the stamps and Anthony Boakye decided their placement on the cloth. After the starched shedder cotton fabric (with a luster finish) was folded and laid on the foam rubber, small nails were driven through the edges of the cloth with a rock. Rocks were also placed along the edges of the cloth to keep it in place. A comb (whose tangs were wrapped with nylon cord to help pick up the colorant) was dipped into the adinra duro, then pulled across the cloth freehand to delineate the sections to be printed. Although it requires practice and concentration, expert printers are able to talk on a cell phone and converse with onlookers while printing.

Following tradition, Anthony filled each section with the same design. Before the section was actually printed, he figured out the placement by dry stamping over the cloth. The stamp was then dipped into the adinkra duro and then the excess was shaken off before bringing the stamp to the cloth.

One edge of the loaded curved stamp was placed onto the cloth, it was rocked across to the other edge, then it was lifted and dipped into the colorant once again to repeat the procedure. 

Although most cloths are machine sewn, some are seamed together with closely placed decorative stitches (forming what textile historians call a randa). The fabrics pictured here (some already industrially-printed) were made with machine woven cloth. Hand woven cloth was used in the past. The edges of the cloth were folded, then sewn to a small piece of heavier cloth to allow the lengths to be stretched taut as they were embroidered with colorful rayon.

In 2009, former President Kufuor wore such a cloth to the Akwasidae.

Nana Yaw Boakye and his son, Gabriel, worked on this cloth together as Gabriel's son observed. This is how many people learn their craft; they are exposed to it at an early age, carefully observing every step until they are allowed to help.

Black cloth dye is prepared by soaking Kuntunkuni (Bobax brevicuspe) bark and roots in a 50 gallon drum of water for a few days, then boiling them over a wood fire, then beating the bark with a pipe, then boiling them again until the liquid is very black.

Faded cloth that needs to be refreshed along with new cloths are dipped several times into the powerful dye, then left outside to dry.

SCREEN PRINTED ADINKRA CLOTH: Instead being decorated with Adinkra stamps, some cloth is screen printed in Ntonso with images adapted from traditional Adinkra stamps. They are drawn by hand or on a computer, transferred to a screen at a shop, then printed on a foam rubber covered surface with water-based fabric paint. The screens are cleaned with water after each use and reused many times. Here we see Kitiwa or Junior (Opanin Yaw Boakye Junior) screen printing onto cotton fabric while kente strips are woven in the background.

Colorful kente strips for joining together printed cloth are woven in Ntonso under the same large tree that shelters the printers. Warped beams and heddles are easily removed and placed against a wall on a covered porch when bad weather threatens.

Finished screen printed cloth.

A short version of The Twenty-first Century Voices of the Ashanti Adinkra and Kente Cloths of Ghana paper that I presented at the 2012 Textile Society of America Thirteenth Biennial Symposium, Textiles and Politics, is included in the Proceedings as a pdf.

Links:
Ashanti Kente Weaving in Bonwire, Ghana
Ashanti Kente Weaving in Adawomase, Ghana
Ewe Kente Cloth Weaving in Denu, Ghana
Glass Bead Making in Odumase Krobo, Ghana
Ashanti Glass Bead Making in Daabaa, Ghana 
Lost Wax Casting in Krofofrom, Ghana  
Painting and Baskets of Sirigu, Ghana    
Ga Coffins in Teshie, Ghana 
THREAD, Inc. Organization
  
Ashanti Adinkra Cloth article in Hand/Eye Online Magazine

More Links:
Adinkra DVD
Traditional Fiber Crafts of Japan  
Papermaking in Kurotani, Japan 

Katazome (stencil dying) in Kyoto, Japan 
Shibori in Kyoto, Japan  
Batik of Java and Bali, Indonesia
Ikat Weaving in Bali
Printing in China 
Batik in Cameroon  
Backstrap Woven Ikat in Mexico  
Footloomed Woven Ikat in Mexico  


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Web page, photographs, and text by Carol Ventura.