map2The Akan of Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire make extensive use of a system of ideographic and pictographic symbols. Individually, each symbol is associated with a specific proverb or saying rooted in the Akan experience. Collectively, these symbols form a system of writing that preserves and transmits the accumulated cultural values of the Akan people. This ideographic and pictographic writing system can be seen in use extensively in textiles, pottery, metal casting, woodcarving, and archiecture.



The Akan Cultural Symbols Project was initiated in 1992 by Dr, G. F. Kojo Arthur at Marshall University, Huntington, WV, USA. Several individuals have provided assistance in one form or the other. The initial web site came online in 1998. Prof, Robert Rowe (now with Bradley University, USA) and Brian Morgan (Marshall University) provided assistance in designing the initial web site. The Project is now based in Ghana at the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
Our thanks also go to Nana Antwi Buasiako, Asantehene Kyeame; "Teacher" John Nsiah, Ntonso; Mr. Samuel Appiah, Asokwa; Mr. Joe Gazari, National Museum, Accra; Mr. Kofi Dwemfour, gold weight smith, Kumasi; Opanyin Kojo Bambir, carver, Achimota; Mr. Akwasi Owusu, Suame-Magazine; and Rev. J. Y. Bannerman, Tema who provided the contacts and shared their time, knowledge and other resources with us. We are very grateful to Divine Datsmor for his support throughout the years, and especially in designing the current web site for the Project.
The Project received funding support from the Office of the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, Marshall University (1993, 1994), Ford Foundation (1996, 2001), and the Smithsonian Institution (2008). We sincerely appreciate the support from these institutions.   

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The Akan Cultural Symbols Project Online serves as an introduction and guide to the related books and CD-ROM components. The first of the books related to this project is Cloth As Metaphor: (Re)reading the Adinkra Cloth Symbols of the Akan of Ghana. To obtain a copy of this book, please click on the image below to order through Paypal. Continually, we will update and add to this web site new resources that become available as part of the Akan Cultural Symbols Project.



Cloth As Metaphor Exhibition
Cloth As Metaphor is an exhibition about indigenous symbols and the arts of the Akan of Ghana in West Africa . The Akan of Ghana and the Ivory Coast ( West Africa ) encode a number of symbols in their hand-woven and hand-printed cloths such as the adinkra and kente cloths. The symbols encoded in these cloths are linked to proverbs, stories, songs, maxims, beliefs and everyday expressions. These symbols in essence constitute a writing system with which the Akan communicate.


The Language of the Kente Cloth of the Akan and Ewe of Ghana

The hand-woven kente cloths of the Asante and Ewe of Ghana serve to bring color and beauty into their lives as well as to keep their bodies warm. Kente cloths are also used to express one’s status and to evoke certain messages. Cloth tells a story and some people claim that woven textiles are the ancestors of written texts. Textile weaving provides a society a way in which to establish their identities through metaphorical use of symbols and signs. The kente cloths of the Asante and Ewe of Ghana teach us many things: history, social and political organization,  mathematics, language arts such as poetry and folk stories, and the beliefs of the people. This poster exhibition provides us with an opportunity to peep into the cultures of the Asante and Ewe of Ghana.

For more information on these exhibits contact us: info at

CEFIKS Publications

Book in Print 


The first book in the series is now available and is entitled Cloth as metaphor: (Re)reading the adinkra cloth symbols of the Akan of Ghana. Copies of Cloth as Metaphor can be obtained from the publisher, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems -  or pay by Paypal.

To order Cloth as metaphor, click on the link below: