I went to Ntoso today to see the Adinkra Village. Adinkra are Ghanaian symbols which represent proverbs and characteristics in Ghanaian culture. Adinkra originated as part of funeral wear. When people attend funerals they wear black and red. They are supposed to wear adinkra symbols on their cloth as well to represent what they want to tell the deceased’s soul. The soul can read the symbols and passes that information along in the afterlife. Adinkra is said to originate from Ntoso. The adinkra symbols are well known throughout Ghana and truly represent parts of Ghanaian culture. Each symbol represents something important to Ghanaians. Here are some examples:
Sankofa – return to your roots. It means the importance of learning from the past.
DENKYEMFUNEFU – The Siamese crocodiles. 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. It is the symbol of unity and democracy.
Gye Nyame – except for God. This is one of the most popular symbols in Ghana. You will find it on plastic chairs, handbags, headscarves, buildings, you name it. It means the supremacy of God. I would like to know if Gye Nyame was around prior to missionaries coming to Ghana.
Adinkra is one of my favorite aspects of Ghanaian culture, right after palm nut soup with banku. It is uniquely Ghanaian and all the Ghanaians I’ve met actually understand and recognize all the symbols. It is like a separate alphabet even. I’ve tried to learn as many as possible, their Asante names and meanings. So today I went to Ntoso to see what they do with Adinkra.
Dying fabric is another integral part of Ghanaian art. Batik, stamping, and tie and dye are popular fabrics that are worn by all in Ghana. Ntoso is where you go to learn the rare art of stamping. Stamps are about 2-4” and made from kalabash gourds. They are hand carved to represent all the Adinkra symbols. The ink for stamping is made from soggy tree bark that has been pounded. The tree bark is reddish grey, but once pounded becomes an inky black. You boil the ink in a coal pot and then dip the stamp into the ink. Taking the ink soaked stamp, you quickly rock the stamp back and forth onto woven cloth and pull it off. What’s left is a beautiful piece of cloth.
My favorite symbols are Nkyimkyim (which I have discussed before), Wawa Aba, and Bese Saka. So I used those three symbols, plus two more to make my cloth, which represents me. Here are pictures of the final product! (I want to make a tote bag out of the blue, yellow striped, and green fabrics.)
The purple strip I am going to use as a scarf, it is really beautiful fabric. The symbols on it are Nkyimkyim (symbol of initiative, dynamism and versatility) and Wawa Aba (symbol of hardiness, toughness and perseverance). The blue strip is shiny, which definitely represents me, and the symbols on it represent peace (the middle S looking one), reconciliation/peacemaking, and the last one has a longer description:
Bese Saka – (The one that looks like a flower) The cola nut played an important role in the economic life of Ghana. A widely-used cash crop, it is closely associated with affluence and abundance. This symbol also represents the role of agriculture and trade in bringing peoples together.
I stamped the fabrics myself, which was a little nerve wracking. But I did a good job and I enjoyed it.
After I stamped the fabric, we headed back home, which kinda took forever given the election fever sweeping the nation. Driving through the streets we were met with throngs of NDC supporters marching in the streets singing, chanting, and trying to cover our car with flags. It was a little scary to be honest. Then I saw something that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
A convoy of police/military trucks out patrolling the streets making sure peace and calm are still the general trends. These weren’t just your standard issue Ford F-150s or Toyota Pickups. These trucks were armored cars. Like I’m here to invade your nation cars. These things were like tanks on steroids. Police men were standing at the top of the tank/armored car with machine guns and raid gear. Bullet proof vests, shield helmets, and mean little faces. They had regular trucks following too with rocket launchers attached. It really did feel like I was watching an invasion. Here’s what the trucks sorta looked like:
Could you imagine that rolling by you down a crowded street full of people marching? The convoy was about 10 cars deep and full on scary. Remind me to never go to a warzone.