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The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here

The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here: Adinkra and Kente Cloth and Intellectual Property in Ghana

Boatema Boateng
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here
    Book Description:

    In Ghana, adinkra and kente textiles derive their significance from their association with both Asante and Ghanaian cultural nationalism. In The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here, Boatema Boateng focuses on the appropriation and protection of adinkra and kente cloth in order to examine the broader implications of the use of intellectual property law to preserve folklore and other traditional forms of knowledge.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7679-8
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction Indexes of Culture and Power
    (pp. 1-34)

    ADINKRA AND KENTE FABRICS are made by ethnic groups in Ghana, and until 1996, I saw them as expressions of cultural identity and kente, in particular, as a highly desirable—and elusive—status symbol. Like many Ghanaians, I valued adinkra cloth not only for its association with mourning but also as the source of a pool of symbolic designs that I considered mine by right of citizenship. I regarded kente as a kind of coming-of-age symbol because women often acquired it through marriage or by attaining enough economic independence to purchase it for themselves. When my grandmother died and left...

  4. Chapter 1 The Tongue Does Not Rot Authorship, Ancestors, and Cloth
    (pp. 35-66)

    KOFI, AN ADINKRA MAKER, raised the subject of property rights in cultural production before I could even explain my mission in wanting to talk to him. Several researchers had come to the community asking him and others about their craft, he declared angrily. He and his fellow cloth producers had shared their knowledge but had gained nothing from it. Clearly, as he saw it, knowledge about adinkra making belonged to those who made the cloth in his community, Asokwa, and they deserved to benefit from it. This was only one of the ways in which I encountered adinkra and kente...

  5. Chapter 2 The Women Don’t Know Anything! Gender, Cloth Production, and Appropriation
    (pp. 67-90)

    IT WAS MY FIRST VISIT TO ASOKWA, and I was explaining my research goals to Kofi. After the initial hostile reaction that I described in chapter 1, he agreed to record his life history and help me contact other adinkra producers. I told him that I would also like to talk to women in the community. His response was, “The women don’t know anything! I’ll tell you everything.” In an interesting shift, his gatekeeping had gone from being total—refusing to have anything to do with me—to being gendered, barring my access to women. It seemed an almost stereotypically...

  6. Chapter 3 Your Face Doesn’t Go Anywhere Cultural Production and Legal Subjectivity
    (pp. 91-116)

    AKUA AFRIYIE was one of the first respondents I encountered, and when asked about copyright, her response established a theme that was to recur with a number of others. She said, “Isn’t it what MUSIGA does?” (MUSIGA is the Musicians Union of Ghana). Next was Manu, an adinkra maker, who expressed doubts about the possibility of protecting his community’s designs from appropriation with the words, “You see, we are not members of, what is it called, the musical thing.” As his narration progressed, it became clear that by “the musical thing” he meant copyright protection. Like Afriyie, he was clearly...

  7. Chapter 4 We Run a Single Country The Politics of Appropriation
    (pp. 117-144)

    KWASI IS FROM THE EWE ETHNIC GROUP and grew up in the town of Agbozume, a center of Ewe kente oradanudo,where he learned to weave. When he moved to the national capital, Accra, and realized that Asante kente was more popular than the Ewe version, he found a group of Asante weavers who readily taught him how to weave Asante kente.¹ This interethnic sharing belies the rivalry between the Ewe and Asante people of Ghana, who both claim to have originated the craft of kente weaving. In a parallel version of the Asante account of kente’s origin, Kwasi’s...

  8. Chapter 5 This Work Cannot Be Rushed Global Flows, Global Regulation
    (pp. 145-164)

    KENTE WEAVER KWABENA told the following story about an attempt to produce handwoven kente in the quantities needed to supply global markets:

    I remember once, Mandela, they say he went to America and he wore kente, he wore a kente jumper and wore it there. So when he got there the Americans were so happy and wanted some. A certain Ghanaian came and placed an order in Ghana. He waited for a large quantity to be made. This work, too, cannot be rushed. By the time he returned [to the States], some country had taken a picture and sent it,...

  9. Conclusion Why Should the Copyright Thing Work Here?
    (pp. 165-182)

    GHANA’S USE OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW to protect elements of local cultural production, like adinkra and kente designs, is not simply an interesting case study of an attempt to fit non-Western cultural forms into Western legal regimes. More importantly, it has to do with the place of nations like Ghana in the current global order and the processes by which they have come to occupy that place. In 2007, Ghanaians proudly celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their independence from Britain. This anniversary also marked fifty years of endorsing modernity as the globally sanctioned form of political and social being and...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 183-184)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 185-200)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-216)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)
  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 218-225)