The Adinkra symbols are believed to have originated from Gyaman, a former kingdom in today’s Côte D’Ivoire in the Western part of Africa. According to an Asante legend, Adinkra was the name of a king of the Gyaman (Nana Kofi Adinkra). Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle with the Ashanti’s for having copied their “Golden Stool”; the golden stool was a stool made out of gold, which represented absolute power and tribal cohesion, a sacred relic of extreme importance that held the spirit of the Ashanti people. Adinkra was finally killed and his territory annexed to the kingdom of the Ashanti’s.

The tradition had it that Nana Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being captured and taken to Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region. The Ashanti people around the 19th century then took to painting of the traditional symbols of the Gyamans unto cloth, a tradition that has been well practiced to date. The name Adinkra means goodbye or farewell. It has therefore been the tradition of the Akan people, particularly; the Ashanti’s to wear cloths decorated with the Adinkra symbols on important occasions, especially at funerals of family relations and friends.

This is to signify their sorrow and to bid farewell to the deceased. Today, the Asante people are not exclusively the only people who wear the Adinkra cloth. It is worn by other ethnic groups in Ghana on a variety of social gatherings and festive occasions. The Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Ashanti culture. They mostly have rich proverbial meaning, since proverbs play a very important role in the Ashanti culture. The use of Proverbs is considered a mark of wisdom.

Other Adinkra symbols depict historical events, human behavior and attitudes, animal behavior, plant life forms and shapes of many objects. These symbols continue to increase as new influences play a major impact on the Ghanaian culture.