A Universal Language
True to the concept of African storytelling are its Adinkra symbols.
They each have a meaning and can
be used to symbolize what is going
on in a person’s life. Adinkra symbols typically have both a literal and
a symbolic meaning. The Internet
is replete with Adinkra websites,
making it a viable research tool for
middle school students to hunt for
their own set of symbols. Remind
students that the wider their hunt
for symbols, the richer their individual stories will be.
African stories have been transmitted to people of many other cultures.
There are many books and websites
containing African folktales with
universal themes for children of all
Most importantly, students
need to integrate the
Adinkra symbols as a
unified part of their design.
The idea of story time is music
to a kid’s ears, a reminder
of days gone by when it
was okay to leave the world
behind, even if for a few minutes,
to travel in the imagination. Telling stories has spanned centuries,
cultures, and age groups, surviving
the test of time, globalization, and
technology. Whether in the form
of books, movies, computer games,
music, or art, good storytelling has
never lost its appeal.
Africans have survived challenging geographical, climatic, and
economic conditions over many
centuries. Even the slave trade could
not kill the indomitable spirit of
the African people, and those who
survived tried to keep their culture
alive. Storytelling was their mode of
transmission. Most of their stories,
had some kind of message or moral.
The stories were used to pass on the
ethics, knowledge, virtues, values,
and lifestyle of their people.
Did you know that the Br’er
Rabbit stories were not originally
American, but African? Many other
Have students collect the symbols that remind them of either
their own lives (autobiographical
approach), or an imaginative story
(creative writing approach). Remind
them that although each symbol
is visually attractive, they should
make their selections based not on
looks, but on meaning.
African-Inspired Wall Hangings
To begin the studio part of the
project, explain to students that
African cloths, whether they’re for
wall hangings, garments, or table
coverings, were used for ceremonial
purposes; they were not merely dec-
orative. Unlike what we do in the
West to decorate our homes, African
wall hangings served as communication tools.
An ideal material to use for stu-
dent hangings is brown packaging
paper, which can easily be crinkled