The history of Adinkra

The Adinkra symbols are believed to have originated from Gyaman a former kingdom in Ivory Coast (Côte D’Ivoire).  According to Ashanti legend, Adinkra was the name of the king of Gyaman who was defeated in battle and captured by the Ashanti tribesman of Ghana. The legend continues that Nana (King) Adinkra wore cloth decorated with various symbols.

When Gyaman became part of the Ashanti kingdom, in remembrance of Nana Adinkra the Ashantis began printing his symbols onto cotton cloth using calabash stamps and vegetable based dyes. This became the Adinkra cloth. The symbols demonstrate various themes relating to language, history, beliefs and the philosophy of the Ashantis. Adinkra symbols have rich proverbial meaning which plays an important role in the Ghanaian culture especially in the Ashanti ethnic group. 

Although Adinkra cloth was mainly reserved for royalty and spiritual leaders of the Ashanti people of Ghana for special occasions, it is now popular amongst all ethnic groups and used for a variety of social activities such as festivals, marriages and naming ceremonies. Today, Adinkra is worn by everyone and frequently mass-produced on brighter coloured fabrics.