I made this quilt for one of my son's old friends who recently had twins. For the first time, I named a quilt: The Circle of life. Not that I've done many quilts! This is my third. I designed this myself. The center is from the scene where the giraffes were tossing the baby Simba and Nala in the air like a trampoline. I continued the African theme in the background and border of the quilt by using two examples of African textiles, Kente and Adinkra cloth. Kente cloth is hand woven on horizontal wooden looms, It is woven in strips about four inches wide. These strips are then sewn together to make the larger pieces that men, women and children traditionally wear wrapped around their bodies. Kente cloth was developed in the 17th century by the Ashanti people. Legend tells of two friends who went hunting one day. They stopped and spent two days watching a spider weave her web. They took what they learned from the spider and developed the first handwoven Kente cloth. There are hundreds of Kente patterns, each representing some facet of the history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, religious belief, social values and political thought of the Akan people of Africa. It is characterized by bright multi-colored geometric designs. Originally, only royalty could wear Kente cloth, and it was reserved for special social and sacred functions. It is still worn by royalty and other leaders at important ceremonies. Although available to non-royalty today, it is still associated with social prestige, nobility and a sense of cultural sophistication. Today Kente cloth is hand woven by the Asante people of Ghana and the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo.
The background of the quilt is called Obaakofo Mmu Man and is based on the proverb Obakofo mmu oman. The literal translation is “one person does not rule a nation” and is a symbol of marital relationships, unity, participatory democracy, a warning against dictatorial rule, and an endorsement of plurality of ideas. This traditional kente cloth pattern is also known as Fathia Fata Nkrumah (Fathia Deserves Nkrumah). It commemorated the marriage between Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister and President of contemporary Ghana, and Fathia, the daughter of President Nassar of Egypt. Kwame Nkrumah sought to promote continental African unity and married Fathia as a gesture of his desire to unite the Arab North Africa and the black sub-Saharan Africa. When Nkrumah’s government was overthrown by the military in 1966, the cloth’s name was changed back to its original name, Obaakofo Mmu Man, as a metaphorical comment on Nkrumah’s dictatorial rule.
The circle of concentric diamonds, I believe, is a version of Nanka Tire which means puff adder’s head. It is a symbol of exploitation, and being overburdened with work. It comes from the proverb Meso annini mentumi a, wose menkofa nanka tire mmo kahyire. Translated, this means, “I cannot even carry the python, yet you are asking me to use the puff adder's head as the carrying pad.”
The striped border is based on the Kente pattern called Babadua after the babadua tree that is used for building fences and thatch roof frames as well as barricades. It is a symbol of strength, toughness, resiliency, power and superiority. The use of this motif at the edge of Kente cloth was a technical innovation in Akan weaving that strengthened the cloth and prevented unraveling or fraying.
Traditionally used as mourning apparel, Adinkra cloth is created when printers mark the cloth with stamps made of softened calabash into which one of the Adinkra symbols has been carved. Each symbol represents a proverb, belief, or philosophy. The four corners of the quilt have symbols used on Adinkra cloth.
The symbol in the upper left is the adinkra symbol for knowledge, life-long education, and continued quest for knowledge. It is called “Nea Onnim No Sua A, Ohu,” meaning “one who does not know can know from learning.” It came from the Akan maxim “Nea onnim sua a, ohu; nea odwen se onim dodo no, se ogyae sua a, ketewa no koraa a onim no firi ne nsa.” The literal translation is, “one who does not know can become knowledgeable from learning; one who thinks one knows and ceases to continue to learn will stagnate.” The Akan people believe that if one ceases to quest for knowledge, one stagnates and then dies.
The symbol in the upper right corner is called Akoko Baatan which means “mother hen.” It comes from two proverbs: Akoko baatan tia ne ba so a, onku no and Akoko baatan na onim dea ne mma bedi.**The first proverb translates to, “When the hen steps on the feet of her chicken, she does not mean to kill them.” That is, parental admonition is not intended to harm the child, but to correct the child. The second proverb translates to, “The good mother knows what her children will eat.” *A good mother does not only feed her children food alone, she also feeds them with love, affection, warmth, tenderness and care. I set this symbol in a background of another Kente cloth motif of the same name and symbolism.
The symbol in the lower left is called Asase Ye Duru. It means “the earth has weight.” It is based on two proverbs: Asase ye duru sen epo and Tumi nyina ne asase. The first means, “The earth is heavier than the sea,” and the second means “All power emanates from the earth.” This symbol represents the importance of the Earth in sustaining life.
The last symbol in the bottom right is called Eban, meaning “fence.” The home to the Akan is a special place. A home which has a fence around it is considered to be an ideal residence. The fence symbolically separates and secures the family from the outside. Because of the security and the protection that a fence affords, the symbol is also associated with the security and safety one finds in love of the family.
I hope you enjoy looking at this quilt and that I didn't bore you to badly with the historical background of the designs used in the quilt! It was an adventure!