Adinkra Stamping Algorithms

In a computer, software follows a sequence of steps, called an algorithm. Adinkra stamping also uses an algorithm, but the screen is a cloth.

Traditional Algorithm for Rectangles

In the traditional algorithm, the adinkra artists first decide which stamps will best tell the story or communicate the message of the cloth. Then they come up with a pattern that makes the cloth interesting to look at. Suppose you have six stamps and only 5 spaces.

You use the first five stamps in the first row. You have one remaining:

In the next row, you start with that sixth stamp. Now you have one left over. You can start the third row with that one.

Keep repeating, and you have the rectangular adinkra algorithm: traditional coding on cloth! Try it here.

The Polar Coordinate Algorithm

In 2019, Dr. Eglash worked with students in Kumasi, Ghana. They were trying the simulations for Native American quilting. They loved the way that Anishinaabe quilters used the medicine wheel to arrange cultural images in a circle. They began to import adinkra symbols into the medicine wheel’s polar coordinate system. A new Adinkra stamping algorithm was born! Check out one of the examples.

It is important to remember that just because something is Indigenous does not mean it is always in the past. Native Americans call it “Indigenous Futurity”. The African version is “AfroFuturism”. You can try creating your own AfroFuturist adinkra stamping pattern by clicking here.