Express yourself with symbolic printmaking

I had an amazing trip back home in India. I met all my family and friends and caught up on changes I missed in last few years. We shared so much laughter and many tears that were held back for so long. Embraced new members and felt emptiness for loved ones I lost.

I also took the opportunity to take my daughters to visit Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Red Fort and India Gate, which are famous historical monuments. The art, sculptors, paintings and carvings were simply beautiful and told the story of events that made history.

Art has been used in all the cultures throughout the world to keep history alive and retell the stories of triumph and defeats.

This month’s project is also influenced by one such wonderful work of art from Ghana, Africa. This art has been used for ages to tell a story and express thoughts and feelings. It’s called Adinkra, or symbolic printmaking.

People in Ghana decorate the cloth by using a black dye made of bark. This dye is called Adinkra aduru. Using the dye, they draw lines on the cloth to divide it into squares. Symbols are carved on calabash gourds and then used as stamps onto the fabric.

The Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante people. They mostly have rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play an important role in the Asante culture. The use of proverbs is considered as a mark of wisdom. Other Adinkra symbols depict historical events, human behavior and attitudes, animal behavior, plant life forms and shapes of objects.

The designing is done according to the message the wearer or owner of the cloth intends to convey to the participants of the event.

You can tell your own story using Adinkra symbols or by creating your own designs in this super fun and creative way. We printed symbols on canvas bags.

What you’ll need:

Pieces of Styrofoam (the kind meat is packaged on works great)

A dull pencil

Various colors of paints or ink (metallic paint for the muslin and block printing ink for the bags)

Something to make the prints on. Example: paper, strips of muslin, canvas bag

Paint brush or rubber brayer to apply the ink or paint

What you do:

1. Create a design or symbol on a piece of Styrofoam with a pen.

2. Trace over it using some pressure with the dull pencil.

3. Cover the Styrofoam with the paint or ink, be careful not to get the paint down into the design, only gently cover the surface.

4. Flip the Styrofoam over and press onto surface of paper, muslin, or whatever you are printing on.

5. Pull up the Styrofoam and check out your design.

6. Repeat this process as many times as desired with different colors and surfaces.

Have a colorful day!!

Shikha Pasrija has a passion for art. She has organized several successful art workshops which have been immensely popular both with kids and their families. Follow her blog or e-mail her at