I was privileged to live in Ghana for 15 months of my life. All around me I would see these symbols which I didn’t know what they meant and one day I would ask my Ghanaian friends their meaning.
What would follow would be an exposition into the heart of Ghanaian culture. Sadly, that culture is dying. This isn’t just true for Ghanaian culture but African culture in general.
The reason I believe is that at present, our culture contributes nothing meaningful to our lives. What’s the use of culture if you can’t feed yourself. Sadly, everywhere you look, Africans are at the bottom of the totem pole.
Yet, that culture is relevant to today’s realities. I am a graduate of Systems Engineering from the University of Lagos and I would say that my understanding of my culture was made more meaningful to me from my studies.
There are many forms of power in this world. The strongest of which is identity. When you know who you are, you will reject anything else and the world will either conform to you or eliminate you but while you live, you will dictate your terms.
I am an Esan man from Edo state in Nigeria. A descendant of the last men to surrender to the British in the Southern Protectorate that would later become Nigeria.
Knowing this, I expect myself to lead and on the hard days, I remind myself of who I am.
That is the strength an identity gives you. Why African culture doesn’t do the same is simply because we have never sought to truly understand it.
Most of what we call culture in Africa is dogma. Whenever you ask the practitioners the reasons for some cultural belief, there is no explanation other than: “It’s our culture”.
Such an approach repels most people who only see the rites but cannot connect to their meaning. Rather than acceptance, such an attitude breads contempt.
I only got to learn about the Adinkra symbols because the Ghanaians were open about it. If my friends had kept quiet, I would never have discovered the beauty, minimalism and symmetry of the Adinkra symbols.
This series “Drawing Adinkra Symbols using Python” will look at 40 Adinkra symbols and my attempt to draw them using the Python programming language. It is a rewrite of a series on my old blog.
I will be using Python 3. In the old blog, I created the code using Python 2. I intend to optimize the code as much as I can.
For a quick introduction to the Python programming language, please check out my fifth book: “Learn Python In One Week“.
I will be drawing 40 symbols in all. This symbols are the easiest to draw because they are made up of lines and circular curves.
Using Turtle Graphics
Before we can draw the symbols satisfactorily, we need to use a grid to analyse the symbols.
A grid will be drawn over the images of the symbols and we will be attempt to reproduce the image on our own grid.
The base images are 200 X 200 pixels. I will be drawing on a grid of 400 X 400 pixels.
The commands we will be using are: 1. import turtle 2. turtle.penup() 3. turtle.setposition(x coordinate, y coordinate) 4. turtle.pendown() 5. turtle.forward() 6. turtle.right(degree) 7. turtle.left(degree)
The code shown above creates a grid of 400 X 400 pixels and resets the turtle to be at the origin of the window when the program finishes running.
The generated image is shown below:
Where Can They Be Found?
Adinkra Symbols are ubiquitous in Ghana, a beautiful West African country on the Atlantic, situated between Cote d’Ivoire and Togo.
On cloth and walls, in pottery and logos, these Asante tribe symbols can be found everywhere.
I would first notice them in a church.
This post has introduced the series “Drawing Adinkra Symbols using Python” which has the aim to draw 40 Adinkra symbols using the Python programming language.
There are a large number of Adinkra symbols but 40 were chosen because the are the easiest to analyse and draw.
Each of the motifs that make up the corpus of Adinkra symbolism has a name and meaning derived either from a proverb, an historical event, human attitude, animal behaviour, plant life, forms and shapes of inanimate and man-made objects.
There are evocative messages in them that carry traditional wisdom. The beliefs, history, and philosophy of the Akan people is also represented by them.
They are still relevant because the corpus of symbols covers all aspects of life in terms of values and the collective knowledge of a people that has been handed over from antiquity.
We have no claws, We have no fangs, Our weight is negligible And so is our strength, We cannot run as fast Or climb as high, We carry no poison, We do not blend into the environment, Neither do we fly, Our hide is fragile. All we have is our consciousness, Our most precious gift.