Symbolic Significance of African Prints: A Dying Phenomenon in Contemporary Print Designs in Ghana


E. K. Howard
G. D. Sarpong
A. M. Amankwah


An apparent phenomenon that projected African prints in the 1960's and 1970's to be accepted and customized as valuable and prestigious cloth in Ghana and other countries in the sub-region is the aesthetic values and most significantly the symbolic meanings they carried. Empirical evidence shows that, most Ghanaians, in the past, built wardrobes of high quality symbolic African prints for posterity whereas others bought and wore cloths with symbolic designs to cast insinuations, yell insults at their rivals, exhibit their love, and to serve as a means of distinguishing and projecting one's social status. A survey of current trends in African print designs in Ghana revealed a fast changing design paradigm in contemporary African prints with symbolism being the thing of the past. This comparative study examines the factors attributing to the change, implications of the change and makes feasible recommendations for future design developments. Industrial and market surveys were conducted through descriptive observational study approach to critically observe and examined the classical and contemporary printed designs of major textile firms in Ghana with specific reference to Texstyles Ghana Limited, Printex Ghana Limited, and Akosombo Textiles Limited. Interviews and observable findings reveal that, designers of African prints now place much emphasis on aesthetics which to them attract wider consumers especially the youth. Symbolic designs are only produce on request since they are mostly preferred by the elderly folks. The study recommends integration of aesthetics and symbolism in African print designs to attract more consumers to maximize profits and for preservation of Ghanaian cultural heritage.