Adinkra symbols of the Akan people from Ghana, West Africa.
Adinkra stamps are carved by hand from either a gourd or chunks of calabash, which is often called Mpakiwa. These stamps are used to print Adinkra symbols and come in various shapes and sizes depending on which symbol you want to be printed. The sizes range anywhere from 2 to 3 inches, which equals 5 to 8 centimeters.
In making these stamps, several sticks of palm-leaf ribs are tied to the back of the gourd or calabash on one end with a strip of cloth to create the handle. Prior to carving the symbols on the outside of the gourd or calabash, the inside must be dried. When a gourd or calabash with a thick outer skin is being used, it must first be softened up. This is done by slathering it with shea butter over the course of a year.
Then the men who are carving the symbol into the stamp must first gently scrape the outer skin off with a sharpened knife. Once that’s done, they draw the symbol directly onto it using a pencil. The negative space in the drawing is then gouged out to create the stamp.
The ink used to print the symbol onto the fabric is called “Adinkra duro.” This is made from Badie tree bark that has been soaked in water to soften it up before boiling it in a pot with iron slag to create a thick paste for printing.
The Adinkra stamp is then dipped into the resulting Adinkra duro ink and pressed against the cloth in a rocking motion since the stamp is slightly rounded. After the symbol is transferred to the cloth it dries to a nice glossy black. This can be repeated if you’re interested in creating a pattern.
All our Adinkra stamps are handcrafted in Ntonso (Ashanti region, Ghana).