Symbolic cloth from Ghana


These ‘fancy print’ cloths are widely worn in Ghana and other West African countries. Cheaper than the more upmarket wax prints, they are generally imported into Ghana and given names and meanings in the Twi language by the market women who sell them.

The three most prominent designs in this photograph are:

Right, above:

‘Ask questions before you get married’

‘Woko aware a, bisa’

Prospective wives should be wary – they should look before they leap.

Left, above:

‘Good husband’


An older design still used today, this is often given by wives to their husbands to express their love.

Below, centre:

‘You treat me as if I were a snail’

‘Wa fa me kwa/ngwa’

This saying indicates unhappiness in a relationship.

Full title:
Symbolic cloth from Ghana, on display in the British Library’s exhibition ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ (2015-16)
Printed textile
© Tony Antoniou, ABC Wax
Usage terms
© Tony Antoniou; British Museum; ABC Wax
Held by
The British Museum
British Museum

Related articles

Language, script and symbol in West Africa

Article by:
Dr Marion Wallace, Dr Janet Topp Fargion

West Africa is a place of great diversity – in language, in writing, in the hugely varied means of recording information and passing it on.