African Textiles Portable Collections Program

Portable Collections Program
African Textiles
Beth Alberty
Gloria Cones
Kayla Dove
Elizabeth Reich Rawson
Dawn Reid
Angela Yang
Emily Timmel
Graphic Design
Charita Patamikakorn
Case Fabrication
Ellen Leo
Special Thanks
Lisa Brahms
Pearl Rosen Golden
Keri Goldberg
Nicki Hoff-Lilavois
This project is made possible by a grant from
© 2008
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
145 Brooklyn Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11213
718-735-4400 ext. 170
For information about renting this or other Portable Collections Program cases,
please contact the Scheduling Assistant at 718-735-4400 ext. 118.
Table of Contents
Checklist: What’s in the Case? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Information for the Teacher. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
How to Handle Museum Objects
Teaching Students How to Look at Museum Objects
About African Textiles
Information about the Objects in the Case
Activities to do with your Students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Activity 1: Introduction to African Textiles
Activity 2: African Textile Video and Journal Exercise
Activity 3: Create a Kente Cloth Design
Activity 4: Make an Adire Cloth
Activity 5: Explore Adinkra Symbols
Activity 6: Design an African Printed Cloth
Program Extensions
Resources and Reference Materials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Vocabulary Words
Correlation with New York State Learning Standards
Where to Find Out More about African Culture in New York City
Bibliography and Web Resources
What’s in the Case
Kente Cloth Strip
Kente Cloth Scarf
Printed Kente Cap
Cloth Napkin
Cloth tied for dying
Wax Resist-Dyed
Adire Wrapping Cloth
Adinkra Stamp
Adinkra Cloth
Man’s shirt
Commemorative cloth
“7 Up” Cloth
African Textiles | 4
What’s in the Case
Ahiagble Gilbert and Louise
Meyer. Master Weaver
from Ghana. Greensboro,
North Carolina: Open Hand
Publishing, Inc, 1998
Musgrove, Margaret.
The Spider Weaver.
New York: The Blue Sky Press.
Arts of Ghana, DVD
Africa Putomayo, CD
African Textile Photos
World Map
African Textiles | 5
information for the teacher
his case will introduce students to the rich traditions of some African textiles. By studying the
materials and completing the activities in this case, students will learn about Africa’s culture and
its peoples through their textile art.
he case’s activities and resources focus on three of Africa’s most well-known textiles: kente,
adinkra, and adire. The case provides students with opportunities to create original adinkra art,
make their own wearable adire cloth, and design their own kente pattern.
The study of African textiles can extend in many directions, such as other African arts, and crafts,
African American heritage and history, African geography, and even botany. We have included
some suggestions on how to make these curriculum connections to serve as starting points
for your own and your students’ interests. Integrated classes were taken into consideration when
developing these activites, making many suited for students with special needs. For your convenience,
you can download this guide from our website:
he objects in this case are real and authentic. Some are from the Museum’s collection and
others were purchased from stores that import African products. Because many are made of
natural materials, they are especially fragile. It is important to emphasize and model to your
students that, like all museum objects, these are to be handled carefully.
African Textiles | 6
information for the teacher
How to Handle Museum Objects
How to Look at Museum Objects
Learning to respectfully handle objects from
the Museum’s permanent collection can be
part of your students’ educational experience.
Please share these guidelines with your class,
and make sure your students follow them in
handling objects in the case:
Objects have the power to fascinate people
with their mere physical presence. Holding
an object in their hands forms a tangible link
between your students, the person who made
it, and the object’s place of origin. This sense
of physical connection makes it easier for
students to think concretely about the ideas
and concepts you introduce to them in your
Students may handle the objects,
carefully, under your supervision.
Hold objects with two hands.
Hold them by the solid part of
the body or by the strongest
area rather than by rims, edges
or protruding parts.
Paint, feathers, fur, paper, and
textiles are especially fragile
and should be touched as little as
possible. Remember that rubbing
and finger oils can be damaging.
Objects also have the power to tell us about
their origins and purpose, provided we are
willing to look at them in detail and think about
what those details mean. Encourage your
students to examine an object carefully, touch
it gently, and look at its design and decoration.
Have them describe its shape, size, and color.
Ask them questions about what they see, and
what that might tell them. For example:
•How was the object made? What tools might
the artist have used?
•What materials did the artist use? Where
might he or she have gotten those materials?
•How does the object feel? Is it heavy, light,
smooth, or rough?
Do not shake objects or the
Plexiglass cases that houses them.
Temperature differences, direct
sunlight, and water can be very
harmful to certain objects.
Please keep the objects away
from radiators and open windows,
and keep them secure.
•How is the object decorated? What might the
decorations mean?
•What does the object tell you about the person or people who made it?
African Textiles | 7
information for the teacher
African Textiles
Africa’s fine art and craft traditions are known
throughout the world. The textile arts are
among one of Africa’s most significant craft
forms. People all over the world wear these
bright colorful fabrics; and their colors and
intricate patterns have been incorporated into
clothing, home decorations, and even product
Kente patterns are woven on a loom in long
narrow strips. The strips are then sewn
together to make a big piece of cloth. Authentic
kente is made by hand and the trade of
weaving is passed through apprenticeships;
typically fathers to sons and uncles to nephews.
frican cloths have distinct patterns. Depending
on the type of textile the patterns are woven,
printed, dyed, or drawn onto the fabric. There
are many types of African textiles but three of
the best known are kente, adire, and adinkra.
Adire [Ah-DEER-eh] is a colorful dyed cloth
found throughout Africa. The best known
and most valuable, adire, is a deep blue cloth
made by the Yoruba of Nigeria. The design is
created by a process called resist dying, which
prevents dye from being absorbed by some
parts of the cloth. There are different types of
resist dying methods used to create adire cloth
Kente [KEN-tay] has become a symbol of Africa
designs. Oniko is a method of tying patterns
outside of the continent, although authentic
into the cloth. Eleko designs are stencilled or
kente is made only by the Asante and Ewe people
painted onto the cloth with starch (usually
of Ghana and Togo. Kente cloth used to be
from cassava or yam). While another method,
known as the “cloth of kings.” In the Asante
called Alabere, uses raffia to stitch designs
kingdom of what is now Ghana, kente was a
into the fabric. Once the designs are complete,
symbol of power and wealth, and was only worn
the white cloth is then dipped into a deep blue
for very special occasions. There are over
dye. When dry, the fabric is untied, or the
300 kente patterns. Many patterns tell a story
starch and stitches are removed, to reveal a
about a person, a group, a day in history,
beautiful design. Handmade adire cloth is also
or a wise saying. Unfortunately, not all the
available in the United States where some
patterns’ meanings are known.
African designers have settled and opened shops.
African Textiles | 8
information for the teacher
Adinkra [Ah-DINK-krah] is a printed cloth made
by the Asante people of Ghana. The patterns
are made with a thick black dye and calabash
stamps carved with symbols. Traditionally,
the symbols represent proverbs, but new ones
are made up every day. After stretching the
fabric on a frame or pegging the fabric tightly
to the ground, the printer draws a grid, and
fills each square with stamped designs. Among
the people in Ghana, adinkra cloth was originally
worn for funerals and during mourning. Today,
the cloth is more brightly colored and worn for
festive occasions.
abrics like kente and adinkra are worn by men
and women on special occasions. Traditionally,
they were made for royalty to wear at religious
ceremonies. Kente and other African printed
fabrics are popular symbols of African culture.
People wear these fabric designs to proudly
celebrate their African heritage. However,
today, African textile patterns are also printed
rather than woven and dyed and can be found
on everything from cloth, gift wrap, notepaper,
plastic and ceramic cups, signs, t-shirts and
many other things.
Words in boldface have been included in the
Vocabulary Words section on page 32.
African Textiles | 9
information for the teacher
Information About Objects In The Case
Kente Cloth Strip, Ghana, 20th century (object #64.53.4) Kente is
a colorful cloth with bright patterns that is woven in thin strips and sewn
together into a large cloth. Traditional kente cloth is worn in large sheets that
are wrapped around the body. Many long, thin strips like this one are sewn
together to make a large sheet. Traditional kente is still made by hand. Once
the cloth for kings, today kente is worn by many people on special occasions.
Kente Cloth Scarf, Ghana, 2008 (object #2008.1.1) Kente is a traditional
and distinctive type of cloth woven of strips like the single one also included
in the case. This scarf is made up of four strips. The weavers of this kente
scarf are members of a family named Gobah Tengey-Seddoh. The family has
been weavers since 1821. It now consists of twelve brothers and sisters who
are managed by an elder, Fred Gobah Tengey-Seddoh. Gobah Tengey-Seddoh
produce contemporary kente products like this scarf and also bedspreads, place
mats, bags and other things that are far from the original, traditional use of
kente as prestige costume for royal persons. The scarf was purchased online.
Printed Kente Cap Kente is recognized all over the world as a symbol of
Africa. Some people in the United States wear kente or items printed with
kente patterns to celebrate their African heritage.
Cloth Napkin, Liberia, late 20th century (object #96.11.6) The napkin
is hand-woven white cotton that was tied like the white example in the case
and dipped into indigo dye. After the dye dried, the ties were removed to reveal
the pattern and the edges were unraveled to make the fringe. The museum
owns a matching tablecloth and set of napkins. It is quite possible that this was
made for the American market rather than for local use.
Cloth Tied for Dying, Senegal, mid-20th century (object #72.76.32b)
Tie dying is one of several methods of creating patterns by preventing dye from
reaching certain parts of a cloth. These methods are collectively called “resist
dying.” The cloth is tied the way it is in this example, dipped into a vat of dye,
dried, and then the ties are undone. Where the ties were remains the color of
the original cloth, in this case white. This example is tied in a way that will
result in a simple pattern of concentric white circles. More complex patterns
are usually drawn on the cloth, which is then tied along the pattern lines.
Wax Resist-Dyed Textile, Guinea, late 20th century (object #96.11.4)
The cracking of wax applied to the surface of the textile when it was dipped
in dye resulted in the intended design of mysterious dark splotches and lines
on this textile. The wax protected the large background areas, but the dye
leaked artistically through the cracks. Wax resist is a form of adire. What is
unusual about this textile is that the pattern is so diffuse. On the other hand,
dying over a woven pattern as in this piece is not so unusual and adds a subtle
African Textiles | 10
information for the teacher
Adire Wrapping Cloth Adire textile is the indigo dyed cloth made by the
Yoruba in Nigeria. The design is created by a process called resist dying,
which prevents dye from being absorbed by some parts of the cloth. This cloth
was most likely made using the Adire eleko method of stencilling or painting
onto the cloth with starch. This cloth was imported from Nigeria and sold in a
Brooklyn store.
Adinkra Stamp, Ghana (object #2004.16.2) Adinkra stamps are made of
sections of calabash and dipped in black dye made from tree bark. The artist
marks out a grid of lines or squares on the cloth, and then fills each section in
one at a time, using a single stamp (or sometimes several stamps) to create a
repeating pattern in each square.
Adinkra Cloth Adinkra is a valuable type of hand-printed cloth. Among the
Asante people, it was worn at first only by royalty and spiritual leaders. Today
it may be worn by anyone, but is generally reserved for very special occasions.
Adrinkra cloth is made by stamping designs on a piece of cloth pegged to a
flat piece of ground or stretched on a frame. Today in the 21st century, there
are hundreds of adinkra stamp designs. Each one has its own name and
meaning taken from a proverb, historical event, human attitude, animal behavior,
plant, or object.
Man’s Shirt, Nigeria, about 1960 (object #71.35.4) The shirt illustrates
how printed cotton — in this instance a little more subdued in design than the
commemorative and “7 Up” cloths—was made up into fitted clothing.
Commemorative Cloth, Dakar, Senegal, 2000 (object #2000.8.4)
This printed cotton cloth celebrates a significant national event, the 40-year
anniversary of the founding of the modern, independent nation of Senegal,
which was formerly a French colony. Like t-shirts and caps in the U.S., the
cloth could be worn or used for decoration to declare the wearer’s feelings
about the event depicted. The photographic portrait is of Senegal’s first
president and famous poet, Leopold Senghor, and the rectangular scene shows
citizens busy at fishing, agriculture, and traditional food pounding, against
a background of modern industrial factories. The printing of the cloth itself
takes advantage of an industrial technology that can reproduce photographs
and can also produce vast quantities of cloth. The adoption of this technique
in the 1960s allowed the African leaders of newly-independent countries
to print the cloth at government expense and distribute it free or cheaply
through traditional open-air markets run by women.
“7 Up” Cloth, West Africa, late 20th century (object #86.11.5)
This cotton textile was produced by the same method as the commemorative
cloth in the case. Instead of a commemorative design, it advertises a drink.
Cloths like these could be worn wrapped around the body, or into a woman’s
outfit consisting of a blouse, long skirt, and turban wrap. The bright colors,
bold patterns, and playful designs are characteristic of this kind of cloth.
You can learn more about these and other objects from around the world by visiting our
Collections Central Online database at
African Textiles | 11
Activities to do with your students
Introduction to African Textiles
Grades: All
Related Objects
Kente Scarf
Cloth Napkin
Senegal Cloth
“7-Up” Cloth
Wax Resist
Dyed Cloth
Adire Wrapping
Adinkra Cloth
Students will gain an overview of African textile making traditions and begin to explore the trade,
craft, and colors of African cloth by closely examining the textiles in the case.
Guiding Questions:
1. What are textiles?
2.What are textiles used for?
3.Where do you use textiles?
4.Why are textiles important?
5.What can textiles tell us about the person wearing them?
6.What do the clothes you wear say about you?
African Textiles | 12
Activities to do with your students
World Map
Arts of Ghana DVD
What Can Objects Tell Me? worksheet
What To Do
1. Write Africa and the United States of America (U.S.A) on the
board in large letters. Ask students to find Africa on the map.
Introduce where Africa is (the DVD has two chapters which
show streets in Accra and a typical market) and how people from
Africa live around the world including here in New York City.
2. Pass out the What Can Objects Tell Me? worksheet. Discuss the
ways we can learn from objects just by examining them closely.
Have students look closely at an article of clothing they are
wearing, such as their shirts. Have them consider: How many
parts or sections does your shirt have? Was it made from one
piece of cloth? Ask them to imagine making a shirt from scratch.
You may also want to look at the types of shirts people are
wearing and ask them to think of the reasons why you might
have a shirt for special occasions and another one for play.
3. Introduce the idea that we can use a similar approach to learn
from objects we may have never seen before. Explain that they
will be looking closely at examples of African textiles to learn
more about how and why they are made and used.
4. Show students a selection of textile pieces from the case. Pass
them around one by one. Ask your students to examine the
textiles and share what they see and feel: When you look at the
cloth can you draw any conclusions about how it was made?
What colors do you see? Does it look familiar to you? What
does the fabric make you think of? What would you make out
of it? Which cloth do you like best? Write their impressions on
the board and invite your students to write their notes on their
object study forms. After all the objects have been examined
ask students to compare them: How would you describe the
differences between the patterns?
Try this alternative For younger students or students with special needs use the
What Can Objects Tell Me? worksheet as a lesson review and have students fill in the
boxes with verbal responses.
African Textiles | 13
African Textiles
What Can Objects Tell Me?
Look at each object closely. What kinds of things can we learn about an object just by
examining it closely? What do objects tell us about the people who made them? Use this chart
to record everything you discover.
Describe the colors,
shapes, and patterns
you see.
What things does the
object remind you of?
© 2008
How do you think
someone might use
this object?
African Textiles
Describe the colors,
shapes and patterns
you see.
What things does the
object remind you of?
© 2008
How do you think
someone might use
this object?
Activities to do with your students
African Textile Making Video & Journal
Grades: All
Related Objects
Kente Scarf
Cloth Napkin
Senegal Cloth
“7-Up” Cloth
Wax Resist
Dyed Cloth
Adire Wrapping
Adinkra Cloth
Students watch a video on African textile making traditions and create their own album of images
and impressions about the textiles in the case.
Guiding Questions:
1. How do you think the textiles were made? What do you see that makes you think that?
2. How do you think the textiles are used? What do you see that makes you say that?
African Textiles | 16
Activities to do with your students
World Map
Arts of Ghana DVD
What Can Objects Tell Me? worksheet
Construction paper
Scissors (safety scissors for special needs students)
Glue or tape
Books and magazines on African culture
Computer w/printer
What To Do
1. Review your students’ impressions of the textiles from the
case (have them refer to their What Can Objects Tell Me?
worksheet). Ask them to consider how they think the textiles
were made and used. Write their impressions on the board.
2. Play the DVD (show Weaving and Adinkra chapters). Introduce
the video by explaining that they are going to watch a video
about people in Africa who make fabrics like the ones they were
just looking at.
3. After the video, invite students to add any additional impressions
or comments about the fabrics to the list on the board.
4. Tell students that they will be creating their own “African Textile
Picture Books.” Hand students two or three pieces of construction
paper. Demonstrate how to fold the paper in half and staple it to
make a book.
5. Instruct students that these books will be used as a journal
throughout the unit to record their impressions of African
textiles. Direct students to draw images, use magazine pictures,
make copies of pictures in books, or use the Internet as a
resource. Encourage them to use pictures that include people
wearing and making African textiles.
African Textiles | 17
Activities to do with your students
Create a Kente Cloth Design
Grades: 3-5
Related Objects
Kente Strip
Kente Scarf
Kente Cap
Students will hear an African folktale about kente cloth and then design their own kente cloth.
Guiding Questions
1. What is weaving?
2.What other things do you know that are woven?
3.Have you seen a loom before? Where?
4.How is traditional kente cloth made?
African Textiles | 18
Activities to do with your students
The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth
by Margaret Musgrove
Photos of kente patterns
Arts of Ghana DVD
Kente Strip templates (to be prepared by teacher)
8 “ x 11” white paper
Colored pencils or waterbase markers
Glue or tape
What To Do
1. As an introduction to the kente lesson, read The Spider Weaver
to your students.
2. Lead a discussion on how kente cloth is made. See if they can
recall what they saw in the video (you may want to play the
chapter on kente cloth weaving again). Pass the kente strip and
scarf around and encourage students to look closely at their
patterns and to feel their textures.
3. Tell students that they will be designing their own kente. Provide
student with kente strip templates, colored pencils or waterbase
markers, glue, and plain sheet of paper (their blank cloth).
4. Have students consult resources for models and then color in
their templates. Instruct students to tentatively place strips on
the large paper backing and consider their composition. Once
their design layout is complete have students glue or tape their
templates onto the blank piece of paper.
5. When finished, have students write an identifying label for their
cloth: “Kente is… It was designed by…” (It may be helpful to give
them the start of each sentence).
6. Hang the “cloths” with labels in the classroom for the duration
of the unit.
African Textiles | 19
African Textiles
Kente Strips
© 2008
Activities to do with your students
Make a Resist-Dye Cloth
Grades: 3-5
Related Objects
Cloth Napkin
Cloth Tied
for Dyeing
Wax Resist
Dyed Cloth
Adire Wrapping
Based on a dye-resist process used by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, students will design and
create their own wearable adire. Though students may recognize tie-dye, they may not know
that it is a Yoruba craft.
Guiding Questions
1. What do you notice about the patterns?
2.How would you describe the patterns? Are they symmetrical, centered, or random?
3.How do you think the adire patterns might have been made?
Adire Designs sheet
Plain white 100% cotton t-shirts
(students bring in/teacher supplies)
Wire hangers (students bring in/teacher supplies)
Non-toxic dark blue fabric dye
Four large plastic tubs
Rubber bands
Marbles/rubber balls (size doesn’t matter, but larger will be
easier for small hands to manipulate)
Rubber/latex gloves
Outdoor space with water supply
Plastic sheets to protect floors and tabletops
African Textiles | 21
Activities to do with your students
Before You Begin Try to recruit volunteers to help you with this activity.
Volunteers can be used to assist students in tying and dyeing
fabric and setting up workstations.
Set up four tying workstations. Each station should include
rubber bands and marbles/rubber balls.
Set up two dyeing workstations. Each station should be
equipped with two large plastic tubs filled with dye (see box
for instructions). Have latex gloves and smocks available for
Set up two rinsing workstations. Each station should be
equipped with two large plastic tubs filled with water. Have latex
gloves and smocks available for students.
If possible, try to do this outdoors as dyeing can be messy. This may
be easier than protecting floors and tabletops with plastic sheets.
You will need a place for drying the t-shirts. This may be outside
if it’s a nice day or somewhere inside your classroom. A strong
cord tied across the classroom is a simple solution.
What To Do
1. Allow students to examine the various adire samples and guide
them in drawing conclusions as to how the designs might have
been made: stitched, tied, or painted? Using the objects, introduce
adire cloth and the various resist-dye techniques that can be
used to accomplish the different designs.
2. Hand out and review the Adire Designs sheet and review the
instructions on how to create different tie-dye designs.
Demonstrate how each effect is achieved. Hold up the cloth
napkin and ask students to refer to their Adire Designs sheet
to guess how the design was created.
3. Make sure each workstation is equipped with rubber bands and
marbles/balls. Before beginning, ask students to write their
name in permanent marker on the collar or back of their t-shirt.
Encourage students to design their own adire using the materials
provided and the design template as a guide.
4. When students have finished tying fabric, bring the class over to
the dyeing station (invite parent volunteers to help). Have a few
containers ready: two containers filled with dye (follow box
directions) and two filled with clear water. If you have to do this
inside, make sure to protect tabletops and floors with plastic
7. Wearing smocks and latex gloves, have students put their
t-shirts in the dye baths. Explain to them the longer the t-shirt
stays in the darker their cloth will be.
African Textiles | 22
Activities to do with your students
9. After soaking for 15-20 minutes, remove the cloths and place
them in rinsing containers of clear water. Have students rinse
cloths, squeezing cloth until the water runs clear and no more
dye runs out (this may require several changes of water).
10. Once rinsed, have the students remove their rubber bands to
reveal their designs.
11. Have students put their shirts on a wire hangar. Hang their
projects to dry on the line in the classroom or outside.
Try these alternatives
• Use Elmer’s glue to draw a design on a piece of cloth. After the glue dries, use a spray bottle
(filled with watered down permanent ink) to spray color onto the cloth (lay the cloth on some
newspapers). Hang dry on a line using clothespins. After they dry, gently scrape away the
glue. Wash the fabric in warm water and the glue will dissolve. (Fabric markers can be used
instead of watered down ink.) Have your students refer to the Adire wrapping cloth for design
inspiration and as a sample of this type of resist-dye method.
• Pour a small amount of blue food coloring into the wells of a plastic egg carton and add a
drop or two of water. Fold a paper towel into a small square, rectangle or triangle. Dip
the corners of the folded paper towel quickly. Open the towel slowly to reveal a beautiful
simulated tie-dye design.
African Textiles | 23
African Textiles
Adire Designs
Method 1:
Rubberbands Only
Method 2:
Marble + One Rubberband
Method 3:
Marble + Several Rubberbands
© 2008
Activities to do with your students
Design & Make a Classroom Adinkra Cloth
Grades: 3-5
Related Objects
Adinrka Stamp
Adinkra Cloth
Students will gain an overview of adinkra cloth including the meaning of some of the most
popular symbols, how adinkra is made, and then create their own adinkra cloth.
Guiding Questions:
1. What is a symbol?
2.Where do you see symbols? (Display the picture symbols you collected and discuss.)
3.Look for symbols on your clothing and jewelry? What symbols do you see?
Black non-permanent stamping ink
Adinkra Symbol Guide
Adinkra stamp sets
Adinkra Cloth Design Grid
Craft paper or table cloth to protect tabletops
Before You Begin Collect picture symbols that students are familiar with such as
Star of David, Christian cross, peace, Nike, Puma, etc.
Set up two stamping workstations. Cover each station with craft
paper or a washable tablecloth and place a set of stamps and
stamping ink.
African Textiles | 25
Activities to do with your students
What To Do
1. Using the objects from the case, introduce adinkra cloth to
your students. Lead a discussion on how adinkra cloth is made.
See if students can recall what they saw in the video (you may
want to play the chapter on adinkra cloth again). Invite students
to gather around the adinkra cloth and stamp. Have students
describe what they see—patterns, arrangement of patterns, grid
lines, etc.
2. Hand out the adinkra symbol guide and review the different
symbol meanings. Point out the use of some of the symbols
on the Adinkra Symbol Guide with those on the cloth from the
case. Ask students to consider what the adinkra cloth may mean
based on the Adinkra Symbol Guide.
3. Model planning an adinkra cloth design. Have students help you
consider the different meanings of the stamps as well as the
overall cloth design. Using the stamps, demonstrate how students
should create their adinkra cloth. Show them how they can
choose to repeat the same pattern multiple times in each box or
just stamp their design once.
4. Split the class into small groups (three to four students) and
provide each group with an Adinkra Cloth Design Grid, paper,
and pencils. Instruct students that each group will be creating
an adinkra cloth design.
5. When cloth design is set, instruct students to take turns at the
stamping stations to stamp their paper cloths.
6. Once adinkra designs are stamped, have groups write a brief
description of the meaning of their cloth. Hang the cloths with
their descriptions in your classroom or hallway for the duration
of the unit.
Try this alternative Make a classroom Adinkra cloth. Using one enlarged template (poster
size) demonstrate how students can choose a symbol and stamp it once or multiple times in a
box. Have students come up individually and add a symbol to the cloth.
African Textiles | 26
African Textiles
Adinkra Symbol Guide
think ahead
learn from your mistakes
good living
two heads are better than one
hand come, hand go
have courage
enjoy yourself
good fortune
give me your heart
i shall meet you again
two good friends
you have changed
house of peace
the king sees all
i salute you
performing the unusual/impossible
love eye
© 2008
African Textiles
Adinkra Cloth Design Grid
© 2008
Activities to do with your students
Design an African Printed Cloth
Grades: 3-5
Related Objects
Men’s Shirt
Printed Cloth
from Senegal
“7-Up” Textile
Students will gain an overview of the art of African machine made cloth. Students will compare
African machine made cloth with various types of designs including geometric patterns,
photographic images, and pop culture iconography, and then design a printed cloth motif of
their own.
Guiding Questions
1. What do these patterns make you think of?
2.Can you imagine wearing clothing made out of material like these? Why or why not?
3.Why is it important to document the world around us?
4.What are ways we document moments in history?
5. Why are textiles a good form of communication?
African Textiles | 29
Activities to do with your students
Colored pencils or crayons
What To Do
1. Using the objects from the case, introduce African machine made
textiles. Explore the differences between the handmade textiles
and the machine made textiles. Can students tell the difference
between handmade and machine made textiles? What are the clues
to look for in distinguishing between them?
2. Introduce the idea that the technology of printed production
allows for textile artists to include more detailed imagery such
as photographs and images of every day items such as 7-Up
bottles. Ask students to reflect on the designs and others they
might have seen like it. Why do you think photographs and
designs are used on textiles?
3. Talk about how African textile designers use textiles to document
what is happening in the world around them; whether that is a
favorite drink or to celebrate their country’s independence. Ask
students to think about their world and come up with a list of
things textiles can document about their lives. You can prompt
them by asking: What is your favorite game? What is your
favorite food? Who is president? Who is mayor or governor?
Write their ideas on the board.
4. Hand out paper and colored pencils to each student. Tell
students to create a textile design using the African textiles
and motifs as inspiration. Encourage students to draw
everyday objects or an important person or event they would
like to commemorate.
5. When their designs are complete, ask students to write a
paragraph describing their design and explaining the inspiration
behind it. (Younger students may just want to write a sentence
or two: My design is… I chose this because….)
African Textiles | 30
Activities to do with your students
Activity Extensions
Social Studies:
•Have students interview a family member
about special textiles in their family (table
cloth, wedding chuppah, dress, etc). Have
students write a page about a special textile
in their family.
•Hold a party at the end of the unit:
•Have students take a picture or draw a picture
of a family textile.
•Have students make an African child’s loom
(see and practice
Teach students how to wrap African cloth
htm for wrapping instructions) and have
students wear their own adire designs for the
party. Play the African music CD and serve
African food. See Citysearch for a list of African
restaurants in New York City that may cater
your African party.
•Have students do additional research on
the Yoruba, Asante and Ewe peoples and add
findings to their journals.
•Have students look up an African American
clothing or textile designer and look for
African motifs in his or her work. Or visit an
African clothing store in Brooklyn.
•Inspired by Spider Weaver, have students
write their own folktale/story about how a
special cloth is created or used.
•Have students create their own adinkra
stamp designs and write a story using only
the symbols. Students can then show and
tell their story OR write a translation of
their story. Begin by talking about the kinds
of things they want to symbolize: animals,
neighborhoods, team icons, etc. to help get
students started.
•Traditional adire is made with indigo dye.
Explore other natural dyes with your students
and try to make your own using objects
found in nature. Go to:
lesson24.htm for lesson and dyeing ideas.
African Textiles | 31
Resources & Reference Materials
Vocabulary Words
Adire A deep blue dyed cloth with designs made by preventing the dye
from touching parts of the cloth.
Adinkra A cloth decorated with symbols stamped in a grid pattern.
Calabash One of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown for the
usefulness of its fruit. When the calabash is dried it is used to
make adinkra stamps and many other useful things in African
culture such as spoons, containers, and instruments.
Dyed To impart a new color to an item, impregnating it with dye.
Kente A cloth made by sewing woven kente strips together.
Loom A frame or machine for weaving threads or yarns into cloth.
Patterns A design or motif that repeats in a predictable and organized
Printed A cloth designed by using a stamp or stamps to apply a motif or
Textile A cloth, especially one that is handmade.
Woven Cloth made by interlacing threads on a loom.
African Textiles | 32
Resources & Reference Materials
Correlations with New York State
Learning Standards
The activities in this guide meet the following
New York State learning standards:
The Arts
Standard 2: Students will be knowledgeable
about and make use of the materials and
resources available for participation in the arts.
Standard 4: Students will understand the
cultural contributions of the arts.
Social Studies
Standard 3: Students will demonstrate their
understanding of the geography of the
interdependent world in which we live—local,
national, and global—including the distribution
of people, places, and environments over the
Earth’s surface.
ELA (English Language Arts)
Standard 1: As listeners and readers, students
will collect data, facts, and ideas; discover
relationships and concepts; and use knowledge
gene rated from oral, written, and electronically
produced texts.
Standard 2: Students will read and listen to
oral and written texts from American and world
literature and relate texts to their own lives.
Standard 3: Students will listen, speak, and
write about their experiences and respond to
those presented by others.
Standard 4: Students will participate in
group meetings in which the student displays
appropriate turn-taking behaviors, offer their
own and solicit another’s opinion.
African Textiles | 33
Resources & Reference Materials
Resources & Reference Materials
You can supplement your unit on African textiles with a trip to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
We offer programs on a variety of cross-cultural topics. For a listing of programs currently
available, please see our website at, or contact the Scheduling Assistant
at 718.735.4400 ext. 118.
Other Places to Visit
Bibliography and Web Resources
The following museums and organizations have
exhibits or programs related to African textiles
and/or African and African American culture.
The following books and websites have
provided source material for this guide
and may also help you enrich your students’
experience with the objects in the case.
Museum for African Art
36-01 43rd Avenue, Queens
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Gureje Boutique
886 Pacific St., Brooklyn
718.857.2522 or 718.857.2105
Offers youth workshops and community
events in traditional African arts, including
Gureje’s specialty, adire.
Ayo, Yvonne. Eyewitness Africa. New York:
Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc., 1995.
Text about art, literature, and activities of
daily life along with superb color photographs
offer a unique “eyewitness” view of the
people, houses, tools, and artifacts of African
cultures and civilizations.
Ross, Doran H., Raymond Aaron Silverman
and Agbenyega Adedze. Wrapped in Pride:
Ghanaian Kente and African American
Identity. Los Angeles: UCLA Press, 1998.
In Wrapped in Pride, distinguished scholars
present an exhaustive examination of the
history of kente from its earliest use in Ghana
to its present-day impact in the African diaspora.
Provides the history of adinkra, how it is
produced and the meaning of certain symbols.
The online guide to the Smithsonian Institution’s
Wrapped in Pride exhibit. Explores the history
of kente, its symbolism and how it is worn.
African Textiles | 34
Resources & Reference Materials
Various lesson plans on African arts and
culture submitted by teachers.
Marshall University’s Akan Cultural Symbol
Project’s website. Includes photos and
information about textiles and other Akan
traditional arts. Demonstrates how adinkra
symbols are used in architecture.
A child-centered site with interactive map
of Africa and facts about the land and people
of Africa.
The Children’s University of Manchester
Talking Textiles exhibit provides a terrific
introduction to textiles and a wonderful
interactive on Adire cloth where children
can design and print their own adire cloth.
An informative site including information about
many different African textile traditions,
images of cloth and photographs of people
making textiles
African Textiles | 35