One Africa, Many Countries – Adinkra

Art Culture
Time 30 minutes
Age 7 & up
Group Size 4 or more
Tags Ghana, Individual, Printing,   more...

Practice an art form similar to one done in Ghana!

Adinkra are unique symbols created in West Africa, especially in Ghana. They are often used on pottery, woodcarvings, in logos, and they are especially beautiful when stamped on fabric. The Ashanti people of Ghana originally created Adinkra cloth to wear on special occasions, like funerals and weddings, and to important religious ceremonies. Adinkra stamps are symbols that represent specific feelings, events, things, or places.


Print out or draw familiar symbols, as suggested above. Come up with a story of your own to tell with symbols.

One Africa, Many Countries – Adinkra

Suggested Materials

  • Images of symbols commonly seen in your community: stop sign, happy face, restroom sign, peace sign, flags, arrow, heart, etc.
  • One or several copies of the Adinkra Glossary (Click here for the PDF) 
  • Paper for drawing
  • Pencils, pens or markersWorld map and/or map of Africa (optional)

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

Ask your children what a “symbol” is and discuss familiar symbols (for example, a heart is a symbol of love; a red octagon is the symbol for “stop” in this country; the peace symbol is a sign of peace, etc.). What makes a picture a symbol? What is the difference between a picture and a symbol? What are some symbols that everyone knows? Could symbols be used to tell a story? Use a whiteboard or poster paper to brainstorm symbols and have kids help you draw common symbols.

Once you have brainstormed symbols, tell students that in Ghana, a country in West Africa, special symbols called “adinkra” are sometimes stamped onto cloth to honor important occasions. Ask students to find Ghana on a world map if you have one, then show them symbols from the Adinkra Glossary (Click for the PDF). If you have time, read to your kids the Adinkra Story (“Two Crocodiles That Share the Same Stomach”) from this curriculum.

The Challenge

Use symbols to tell a story about an important event in your life.


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. Have your students work individually or in teams of 2 for this activity.
  2. Tell students to close their eyes and imagine an important event or story from their lives, such as their last birthday party, an important meal, a family wedding, their first day of school, etc. Give them a minute to think about the details. While they are thinking, draw your own “symbol story” on a chalkboard, whiteboard or piece of chart paper. Make sure you are using only symbols, and use at least 1 adinkra symbol.
  3. Tell your students that you have a story too, and that you have told it using symbols. Ask students to guess what your story is about, just by looking at the symbols you have created. Then tell them the full story. What symbols gave them the best clues about your story? After hearing your story, can they suggest other symbols you could have used?
  4. Tell students they will be telling their own stories using symbols. They can use existing symbols, or symbols they make up themselves—you might even encourage them to use at least one adinkra symbol in their story. For example, a student who wants to tell the story of a birthday party, might create a symbol for family, one for celebration, one for cake, one for the season in which the party took place, and one for the adinkra symbol “Eban”, a symbol for love, safety and security.

Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

Once your students have had a chance to recall an event and draw a few symbols, bring the group back together to discuss their work so far. Did everyone think of a special occasion or event? Was it hard to choose one to tell a story about? How are they deciding which symbols to use in their story? Is it hard to tell a story using symbols instead of words or more detail pictures?


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

Remind your students that in Ghana and some other countries in West Africa, people sometimes use special symbols called adinkra to help tell stories about an event or someone they cared about. Share the Adinkra Glossary (Click for the PDF) if you have made copies, and tell your children that they can use these symbols to help tell their story. Make sure to tell students that these are only a few of the adinkra symbols that exist. If they would like to see more, they can search for them on the Internet. See Suggestions below for resources.

Have students go back to their symbols and finish creating their stories. Then, they can swap with a neighbor or partner and tell that person the story of their special occasion, using the symbol story they’ve created. If you like, have students present their stories to the whole group.


  • After trying this activity, try creating adinkra stamps using the Adinkra Stamps activity from this curriculum.
  • If you have not yet done so, read to your children the Adinkra Story (“Two Crocodiles That Share the Same Stomach”) from this curriculum.
  • For more adinkra symbols, visit this site.
  • You can also look for the book “The Adinkra dictionary: A visual primer on the language of Adinkra” by W. Bruce Willis for even more symbols and information.
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