In Africa, cloth is used for both decoration and communication. Many designs have special meanings, reminding people of specific proverbs or ideas, such as unity, patience or peace (see Adinkra Symbols below). This project is based on a dye-resist process used by the Yoruba people of Nigeria called adire (a-DEER-ay) and stamped symbols from the Ashanti people of Ghana called adinkra. Our adire cloth uses vegetable shortening and acrylic paint instead of the traditional cassava paste and fabric dye, but the process is essentially the same. Try making a colorful scarf or tablecloth that conveys a message.
Cut the fabric to shape and tape it to several sheets of newspaper (to reduce the mess), then tape the project to a table or board (to keep the cloth taut).
Lightly trace the stencils on the cloth with a pencil, or draw shapes freehand.
Using a paintbrush, apply a thick layer of the vegetable shortening on each design. (Note: The designs will be white on the finished cloth.)
Thin the acrylic paint with a little water so that it is the consistency of yogurt.
Paint the entire piece of fabric, even over the designs. (They will wash out later.)
Let the fabric dry a couple of hours or overnight. When it is completely dry, peel it off the newspaper.
Rinse the fabric in water with a little soap. This will remove the vegetable shortening and any bits of newspaper.
Hang your fabric up to dry. If you want a more finished edge, fold over a hem and secure it with fabric tape or glue, or make a hem on a sewing machine.
ADINKRA SYMBOLS ON THE ADIRE CLOTH
NAME: Aya (fern)
WHAT IT STANDS FOR: defiance, independence and fearlessness
NAME: Duafe (wooden comb)
WHAT IT STANDS FOR: positive qualities of women -- patience, fondness and care
NAME: Gyawn atiko
WHAT IT STANDS FOR: great courage and determination
NAME: Gye nyane (only God)
WHAT IT STANDS FOR: the idea that God -- not humans -- decides the important matters
WHAT IT STANDS FOR: love and kindness
NAME: Dweninimu aben (ram's horns)
WHAT IT STANDS FOR: the proverb that says that the ram, while slow to anger, is unstoppable when riled up