The final activity in this section asks you to bring together the observations you’ll have made after watching each section of video.
Consider the following questions:
Can you list some of the ways in which speakers described kente and adinkra being used?
Note down some of the meanings assigned – sometimes several to one design.
Note how new designs arise and some of the new designs mentioned.
Kente is worn for special occasions of all sorts, including funeral commemoration services. In this case, the colours considered suitable are white and black or white and blue. Some types of cloth were considered more suitable for women. Kente is associated with high office, and some designs, involving extreme skill to weave, are exclusive to the Asante chief (the Asantehene). We were told that African-American students wear kente for graduation in national colours (black, green, and burgundy).
A design called Obaa Kofo Mmu Man (meaning ‘One man does not govern’, ‘Two heads are better than one’ after local proverbs) has been renamed Fatia after the wife of the first president of Ghana, but the design is also still called by its earlier name. Each of the component designs on a woven strip are named, as well as the design as a whole. The design called Adwenisi Adwenisu or ‘Design upon design’ indicates superlative skill and the use of more thread.
New designs are being invented. It is up to the weaver to use his ‘imagination’ in combining patterns.
(You may like to think about the zig-zag motif of Adwenisi Adwenisu and the way this was interpreted (note the passing reference to women). Might you draw on this as you consider Theme 3 above?)
Adinkra is worn for funeral commemorations and mourning. Black is chosen by family members, although the chief mourners wear red. Men wear a single cloth while women wear three.
The adinkra stamps have different names. These include ‘Except the Lord’ (meaning without the help of God nothing is possible); ‘King of the Symbols’ the ‘Sankofa’ bird (meaning ‘Go back to your roots’); ‘You cannot tell the good from the bad’. These designs are interpreted in different ways as applying to the wearer’s life or to other events. (The family mourners we interviewed at Kumasi explained they were wearing an adinkra symbol (rams’ horns, invented as a symbol for victory in war) to indicate the Christian victory of life over death won by their recently dead father.)
Adinkra designs have been taken over by industrial manufacturers of printed cloth.
The new designs mentioned were ‘Change your life’; a new design for the Sankofa bird; a symbol for ‘Enemies round me’ (meaning that whether you are good or bad you always have enemies).
(Note: you might ponder over the relationship between the worded meanings assigned to kente and adinkra and the issues of status and modernity – Themes 1 and 2 above. Consider, for example, the tone of the examples given, their educational/moral content. Might this have something to do with the status of these cloths? Then reflect on the nature of proverbs and what these might suggest to western writers about the tradition of cloth-making in Ghana.)