Design your own Adinkra Symbols

Grade Range:  3-8

Class time: 2 hours – 3 days (can be differentiated)

Subject Areas:  Art, History, ELA, Technology 

Overview:  Students can engage in multiple activities  to learn about Adinkra Symbols before creating their own that can be fabricated in many ways.

Intro to Adinkra

  • Adinkra are symbols that represent words or phrases, they originated in Africa, in what is now South Ghana and were originally created by the Akan people. Adinkra were printed onto cloth, or pressed into pottery, and were only used by royals.
  • The Talking Cloth, is a book for younger students (grades K-3) that is a great way to introduce Adinrka.
  • Adinkra Symbols were featured in the move The Black Panther. Many students are familiar with this movie, watching it together (it is PG-13) or discussing the movie is a way to introduce the topic to older students.
Black Panther designer Ruth Carter reveals the African symbols embedded in  the costumes

Below are a few videos from youtube that talk about the history of the Adinkra, they range in depth and length. The first video is made by an art teacher and is 1 minute long. The second video goes into a bit more detail and is 3 minutes long, and the last video has a ton of info and is 15 minutes long:

1 minute long Adinkra video made by an art teacher
3 minute long overview of the history of Adinkra
15 minute long video with TONs of info, this video is great!


Design your own Adinkra

STEP ONE: What are you Core Values?

Have students complete the What are my Core Values? worksheet to determine their top three values.

Fabrication opportunity : Students can use their core values to create a bracelet or emblem to wear to represent their values.

STEP TWO: Design your Adinkra

Give students copies of the ADINKRA SYMBOL CHART , or share it online. Have students read through them all and talk about their meanings and if they overlap at all. Have them find similar symbols or opposite symbols.

Have students complete the DESIGN YOUR OWN ADINKRA Activity

*** To focus on the design process, teachers can break up this worksheet to include student peer to peer feedback before students pick their favorite symbol and draw it on the grid for part 6 of the worksheet.


3D PRINTING – Emblem / Keychain

Using Tinkercad, have students create a 3D version of their Adinkra Symbol that can be printed and worn as an emblem.

*Start with a cylinder that is 75mmx75mm and is 3 mm tall. The symbols should be ON TOP of the cylinder to ensure easy printing

*Students need to add a hole to the top of the cylinder, or a tube loop for the string to go through

Vinyl Cutting – Sticker / T-Shirt / Stencils / Stamps

Have students design their symbol using a 2D program such as Silhouette, Inkscape or Corel. Or you can have students create the symbol using Google Drawings or Powerpoint. Or using, a great free site!

Once students have created their designs, they can be used to create Vinyl Stickers, or cut from heat press vinyl to make t-shirts

Students could also use their vinyl sicker to carve out a stamp from rubber or sponge or printing. Or create a negative space stencil for printing or wood burning.

Laser Cutting – Leather Journal / Night Light

Turning the students design into a Corel draw file will allow them to be able to cut or engraved with the laser.

Extension Activities:

After the students design their symbol it is up to the teacher to expand on the activity the following are some ideas that would work.  Please let the MFL team know if you think of anything that should be added to this list!

ART: have students create their own Adinkra Cloth, or pottery pieces

HISTORY:  focus on the history of Ghana and the Akan people. Look at other pictorial languages such as Egyptian Hieroglyphs.

MATH: Look at the positive / negative space of a two dimensional symbol. Break symbols down into simple shapes to find the area and perimeter of complex shapes.

ELA:  There are a ton of books about Adinkra at various reading levels to engage students in reading about these wonderful symbols. There area also a bunch of book for academic reading on Black Panther, a great way to get students reading!

Please take pictures of the work you do after the MFL visit and send them to the MFL team along with any anecdotal information about who the project went.  Or, if you combine a few of the extensions and have the students present their work, please invite the MFL team!