Learn and appreciate the history of Ghana through art.
Ghana has a rich history and culture. You will see traditional art used in everyday life including, kente cloth, krobo beads, adinkra symbols, wood carving upon many others. While art is a major part of the history in Ghana it is occupation of many people in Ghana. Akwaaba Community Collective works with individual artists and vendors in Ghana to bring our customers the best quality items. We believe it is important to educate ourselves and others about the history of the items we sell. Explore the various art forms detailed below.
Kente cloth comes from a textile practice that originated in Ghana centuries ago. The fabric has come to symbolize cultural affiliations from West Africa across the diaspora, but legend has it that a spider spinning a complex web inspired the earliest kente techniques and designs. Weaving kente cloth is a cultural tradition of the Asante (also known as Ashanti) people, and these fabrics were originally used exclusively to dress kings and their courts (Davenport).
Here are a few colors commonly found in kente cloth, and their meanings, per Sankofa Edition and Adinkra Brand.
● black: spiritual strength, maturity; mourning and funeral rites
● red: blood, death, political passion, strength
● blue: peace, love, unity, and harmony
● gold or yellow: wealth, royalty
● green: growth, harvest, renewal
● white: purity, cleansing rites, festive occasions
● purple or maroon: Mother Earth, healing, protection from evil
Traditional glass beads made in Ghana are often referred to as “Krobo” beads because they are predominantly made in the Krobo area in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Beads have been made in Ghana for many centuries. In the past they were made of various materials including stone, bone, wood, coconut shells, sea shells, clay and brass. Archeological evidence suggests that stone, bone and ceramic beads have been used in the area for thousands of years. Traditionally beads have been considered a status symbol representing wealth and financial success. It has been used by royalty to portray their wealth ((African Beads & Fabrics).
Adinkra symbols form part of the socio-cultural and economic lives of the Akan people where they have unique meanings. They are at various times, are used to transmit messages, offer advice and serve a lot more purposes on different occasions. Thus, they bear wider socio-cultural, economic and spiritual significance. They will be found on other Akan artifacts like stools, chieftaincy paraphernalia and emblems of various purposes. Their use is now more widespread (African Beads & Fabrics).
The Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asantes. They mostly have rich proverbial meanings since proverbs play an important role in the Asante culture. The use of proverbs is considered as a mark of wisdom. Other Adinkra symbols depict historical events, human behaviour and attitudes, animal behaviour, plant life forms and shapes of objects. In fact, the Adinkra symbols continue to change as new influences impact on Ghanaian culture as some of the symbols now record specific technological developments (African Beads & Fabrics).
To learn more about what each adinkra symbol means click here!
The cowrie — or cowry — shell was one of the most successful and universal forms of currency in the world. In West Africa though, the humble shell worked its way into the cultural fiber, taking on a deeper symbolic and ritualistic meaning that has never been entirely lost. In Ghana, the national currency is the cedi, which is the Akan (Twi) word for “cowrie”. The coin for 20 cedi featured the image of the beloved shell in 1991 (Cultures of West Africa).
The cowrie’s elegant shape represents the female form, its rounded top reminiscent of a pregnant woman’s belly. Thus it is a symbol of fertility. The slit on the underside of the shell can look like a black pupil against the pearly white surface, which is why it is often used to ward against the evil eye.
The benedictive power only enhances the elegance of the shells. Cowries are often used as ornamental beads: incorporated into jewelry, worn in the hair, decorating statues and baskets (Cultures of West Africa).
Shea butter is one of the most important local products in Northern Ghana. The shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea trees. Shea tree is also widely known as karité tree (in French). Karité originally means tree of life. Shea trees are indigenous for Africa and grow in savannah region from Senegal in the west to Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda in the east. Shea butter is derived from the nuts – inner part of the shea fruits. In almost every village in Northern Ghana, women are involved in shea butter process (Safari Junkie).
Nowadays, in Western world, shea butter is one of the most common used organic ingredient in cosmetics. It can be used as lotion or moisturizer as well as raw butter without any other ingredients. It can be used for any skin types and for every body part – from scalp to feet (Safari Junkie).