Art and Life Bound Seamlessly Together~ The Adinkra Cloth-makers of Ntonso,Ghana
“…shining a light on the seamless integration of daily life with this artistic activity by the makers, as well as the ability of the Adinkra symbol language to respond to current events.”
Associate Professor Mary Hark
Starting in 2006 when she was awarded a Senior Fulbright Research Grant, Mary Hark, faculty member in Design Studies, has been observing, documenting, collecting and studying the production of Adinkra cloth in the village of Ntonso, Ghana, nestled in the historic center of textile activity. Her creative scholarship is grounded in a studio practice that is deeply impacted by the fieldwork she’s conducted in Ghana, Hark’s work will yield a meaningful body of information, both visual and written, that will contribute to a more robust understanding of Adinkra textiles.
Stamped Adinkra cloth, traditionally worn by Ghanian people at funerals, are a visualization of proverbs that embody cultural ideas, social understandings and popular sayings. The stamps comment on human behavior and the structure of society, generally supporting values and events that are culturally agreed upon. The cloth is a living tradition that embraces new ideas and is always evolving. Hundreds of historic stamp designs have been recorded and new symbols are assimilated that speak to current events and social change. Adinkra does not typically describe a narrative; the choice of symbols and overall design of the cloth are in the hand of the maker. While a client may request particular symbols, more likely the producer will choose symbols that are meaningful to him, philosophically and aesthetically.
Adinkra producing workshops, as with many other traditional ventures in Ghana, are deeply intertwined with all other parts of life. Specialized creative activity is seamlessly integrated into domestic life and daily schedules. While members of an extended family may each be a specialist in different aspects of the work (weaving, dyeing, stamp-carving, ink production, public relations, and marketing, etc.) most often all family members share a finely tuned design sense that is informed by the tradition.
The Vilas Associates Competition recognizes new and on-going research of the highest quality and significance. Recipients are chosen competitively from across the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.