This is an West African printmaking project I did a few years ago with some Grade 6 students.
Adinkra (ah-DEEN-krah) cloth is a hand-printed fabric made in Ghana. Developed by the Ashanti people, Adinkra cloths were traditionally made for royalty to wear at religious ceremonies. Through the years, people have also decorated the cloths to tell a story or to express their thoughts or feelings.
Adinkra cloth is stamped and patterned with traditional Ashanti symbols. Each symbol has its own meaning. People in Ghana decorate the cloth by using a black dye made of bark. This dye is called Adinkera aduru, and it is what gives the cloth its name. Using the dye, they draw lines on the cloth to divide it into squares. Next, they carve symbols into calabash gourds, press the gourds into the dye, and stamp the symbols onto the fabric.
|Examples of adinkra symbols and their meanings.|
|Carving a stamp from a gourd or calabash...|
|A lovely collection of hand-carved gourd stamps|
|Printing onto the large cloth (which is sometimes stiched together from strips of fabric).|
So for this project, instead of having students carve their stamps (which I have done before with knives and potatoes, but it's tricky (with the knives) and the potato doesn't seem to last long enough to finish the project), we drew our designs onto flat kitchen sponge cloths (from the Dollar Store). I believe fun foam sheets would also work well.
I gave the students handouts of real symbols and their meanings for inspiration.
Students came up with their own design and it had to symbolize something personal to them.
Cut out the design and glue it onto a square of thick cardboard.
Paint the sponge stamp with black tempera or acrylic paint and test it in a sketchbook or a scrap piece of paper. Students needed to figure out for themselves how much paint to apply and how best to apply pressure.
Voila! A perfect stamp!
For our good copies, students simply printed on large white paper. Of course, you could use real fabric.
Ok, so students are stamping away, building up their design. I asked for a symmetrical design but alot of students went crazy with their own patterns....
Next time I teach this, I will insist the patterns are symmetrical and much closer together. I think, perhaps, some students got bored and just started randomly printing just to fill the paper....it can be a tedious and repetetive process. Next time, I need to teach this to a older grade or use a smaller sheet of paper.
Once the printing was finished and dry, students added 'stitch' marks with oil pastels to create panels.