An “adinkra” is a visual symbol. This traditional African textile dates back to the 1800’s. Adinkra symbols were once printed on fabric in a grid pattern using a carved gourd. This special fabric was reserved for royalty or spiritual leaders. Today adinkra cloth is widely available and commercially printed on fabric, t-shirts and jewelry for everyone to wear and enjoy.
This graphic style translates well to a successful printmaking lesson for any age. Follow along as we use this ancient art & modern materials to have some fun, adinkra style!
Science & Art
As some of you may know we recently started a new science curriculum that reads like a chapter book. Each chapter takes place on a new continent. So as we learn about science we’re throwing in a little geography and cultural information on the area. Last week a lesson in kente cloth weavings was inspired by a chapter that took place in Africa. We just weren’t ready to move on from African art so we continued with these Adinkra cloths.
Symbols & Art
There always symbols to be seen in art. Some symbols are easy to see and explain while others are buried a little deeper. The great thing about Adinkra symbols is they are decorative but they also draw a somewhat graphic picture of what they represent. Depending on how different symbols are combined the message of the cloth is different. Each adinkra cloth tells a unique story. It’s a great place to start talking about symbols and storytelling through art with younger kids!
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Creating your stamps…
While gourds may have been the printmaking material of choice for the Ashanti Empire we chose to use something a bit more commercially available. This peel and stick foam is a great medium for any printmaking project because it is easy to cut with scissors. We made a base out of cardboard saved from a cereal box. Next draw a design onto a piece of foam, cut it out, and stick to the cardboard base. Easy.
To stay true to the adinkra “grid” style of printmaking we divided our paper into quarters using a fork dipped in black paint. This is optional. We are using Adinkra symbols as inspiration, not trying to reproduce a replica.
Next, paint foam stamps using a soft brush and the paint of your choice. I like this paint because it is inexpensive and vibrant. It isn’t washable though, so you gotta know your kid!
Each time you paint your stamp place it on your grid and press down. Chances are you will have to repaint it before printing it down again.
One of my favorite things about printmaking is that it rarely turns out “just perfect.” For all those little perfectionist out there this is a good lesson in letting go and seeing what unfolds.
Adinkra symbols are the beginning….
Making handmade foam stamps is a process that could be carried far beyond Adinkra symbols. There are so many applications to this technique for every age group.
Try it, share it, and let me know how it turns out!