<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> The Talking Cloth


  1. Why do you think Aunt Phoebe likes to collect things?

  2. Why does Amber enjoy visiting Aunt Phoebe? Would you like to visit Aunt Phoebe? Explain your answer.

  3. How does the Talking Cloth “talk,” and what does the cloth say?

  4. What does Aunt Phoebe mean when she says that Amber has grown inside?

  5. If you had an adinkra cloth, what would it look like? What would your cloth say about you?

  6. CONNECTING/ COMPARING         How is the Keeping Quilt also a kind of Talking Cloth?





African design






vocabulary exercise


By Rhonda Mitchell

Aunt Phoebe has things.  Things and things and things.
“A collector of life,” Mom calls her.
Daddy says she lives in a junk pile.
“Reminds me of your room, Amber,” he says.
I like visiting Aunt Phoebe.  There’s no place in her house to be bored, and she always give me mocha to drink.  Daddy says it will stunt my growth.
Aunt Phoebe tells him, “Mocha is named after a city in Yemen, and this child just grew an inch or two, inside, for knowing that.”
Aunt Phoebe knows things . . .
She tells me stories, about her “collection of life,” each time we visit.  I sip hot mocha and listen, imagining all the people and places she has seen.
Today we sit in her kitchen and she tells about the basket of folded cloths in the corner. “I bought these in Africa,” she says.
Daddy laughs.  “I figured that was laundry you hadn’t put away.”
Aunt Phoebe smiles and takes a cloth from the top of the basket. She unfolds it with a flourish –a long magic carpet.  It runs like a white river across the floor.
“What do you do with such a long cloth?” I ask.
“You wear it,” says Aunt Phoebe. “It tells how you are feeling.  This cloth talks.”
“How can it do that?”
“By its color and what the symbols mean.” Aunt Phoebe tells me. “This is adinkra cloth form Ghana.  It’s made by the Ashanti people and one time only royalty wore it,” she says. 
Aunt Phoebe rubs the cloth against my face.  It’s silk and feels smooth. I imagine myself as Ashanti princess. . . .  
The cloth is embroidered in sections and hand printed all over with small black symbols.  Like words.
A white cloth means joy –yellow, gold or riches. Green stands for newness and growth.  Blue is a sign of love, but red is worn only for sad times, like funerals or during wars.
“Maybe I should wear red when your daddy comes to visit,” Aunt Phoebe says.
Daddy laughs and pours himself some mocha.  He likes to listen too.  I know it.
Aunt Phoebe tells the meaning of some symbols on her cloth.  One says, “Except God I fear none.” That’s called Gye Nyame.
Another is called Obi nka Obie.  “I offend no one without cause.”
Each symbol speaks of something different, like faith, power, or love.
I image cloths with my own symbols on them.
Fred –he’s my little brother—should be dressed in green for “go’ with grubby little handprints all over.
Everyone can see what kind of a mess that did is.
Aunt Phoebe’s little brother is my daddy.  “Let’s see,” she says.  “Guess we could wrap him in gray pinstripe cloth for seriousness, with squares on it!”
We all laugh, imagining that.
I ask if I can put on the adrinka cloth.
“Of course you can, baby,” Aunt Phoebe says.
“When you’re older, you can have it for your own.”
She wraps the adinkra three times around my waist, then across one shoulder – and still it drags on the ground.
“A cloth this long is a sign of wealth.” She tells me.
Daddy says, “Amber, you’ll need to drink a lot of mocha to grow tall enough.”
“Well, says Aunt Phoebe, “this child has grown a lot, inside, just today!”
I smile, thinking of it. This cloth means joy.
I am an Ashanti princess now, and here is all my family and everyone who has ever worn an adinkra. . . . gathered around me.