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What is Kente? Kente is a cloth or fabric local to Ghana and nearby West African countries. It is thought that Kente Cloth was inspired by the weaving patterns of a spider as it weaves it’s web. (the spider is a famous figure in Ghanaian mythology and is referred to as Kwaku Ananse). Kente cloth is known locally as “nwentoma”. It can be made from various kinds of threads such as rayon, however it is best known to be made from silk. It is not just the colors that make Kente special, but the way the fabric is woven. Kente Cloth can come in many colors or just one solid color. If it is woven in the traditional manner then it is still referred to as Kente.
African art varies greatly, from wooden hand carved figures to paintings to handmade fabrics like Kente Cloth and Batik cloth art. The different countries of Africa each share similar artistic heritages and you will find that art from different areas of Africa share similar styles and qualities, although specific cultures place their own signatures on their arts. In Ghana, you will find that Kente Cloth is the signature art of the country. However you will find other types of art such as the “Dondo” drum, which is used for community events and the more modern wax print cloth which is adorned by both women and men alike.
Documentary about how Kente Cloth is woven
Pictures of Class of 2011 Kente weaving
Below are the meanings of Adinkra symbols that you may find on Kente Cloths. These are different from Kente Cloth Weave Patterns & Meaning
It is common to see church choirs and clergy wearing kente stoles. Below is an example of a kente stole for choir and clergy that we carry.
If you are interested in purchasing this kente stole please click on the image above.
Besides Kente Cloth, there are various other types of African Frabrics and Textiles. These cloths are generally hand made and require a lot of patience and creativity. Below are some other creative and beautiful types of fabric from Africa you will love:
Below are the Kente Cloth Weave Patterns that you may find on Kente Cloths. These are different from Adinkra symbols which also carry their own symbolism.
NKYE OBI KWAN MU
SI – TO ERR IS HUMAN
FORGIVENESS, CONCILIATION, TOLERANCE, PATIENCE, and FAIRNESS
From the maxim: Obi nkye obi
kwan mu si.
Literal translation: Sooner
or later one would stray into the path of the other.
To err is human, and therefore, one
should be conciliatory
when one is offended. For sooner or later one may be the offender to
NA GYA DA MU – CRISIS IN THE OYOKO NATION
CONFLICTS, WARNING AGAINST INTERNAL STRIFE, NEED FOR UNITY IN
This cloth name commemorates the
civil war after the death
of Osei Tutu between two factions of the Oyoko royal family. One
faction was headed by
Opoku Ware and the other by Dako.
FRE MOGYA –
MONEY ATTRACTS BLOOD RELATIONS
Symbol of FAMILY RELATIONS, RESPONSIBILITY, HARD WORK, and SHARING
From the proverb: Sika
Literal translation: Money
attracts blood relations. Or, Wealth
strengthens the family bonds.
When one succeeds, one has
responsibility to share one’s
success with one’s relatives.
In the Akan extended family system,
the attraction of
financial success to blood relations can sometimes be overwhelming.
AWIA REPUE –
Symbol of PROGRESS, RENEWAL, DEVELOPMENT, WARMTH, VITALITY, and ENERGY
This symbol was used by the Progress
Party that ruled Ghana
from 1969 to 1972 as its party logo.
ON GOD, HOPE, HIGH EXPECTATION, and POWER OF THE PEOPLE
From the maxim: Nyankonsoromma
na oman wo no na nnye osrane. Or, Oba
nyankonsoromma me te Nyame so na mennte me ho so.
Literal translation: The
state belongs to the people and not to the king. The
stars represent the
people and are contrasted with the moon (osrane), representing the
king. The people are
always there though kings may come and go.
The second statement translates thus: Like
the star son of
God, I depend on God not on myself.
This cloth is an example of kente
fufuo (“white” kente) in the Akan color scheme. The other color
classifications are kookoo and tuntum.
NSAFOA – ACHIMOTA KEYS
Symbol of KNOWLEDGE, UNITY IN DIVERSITY, and HARMONY
The motif commemorates the Achimota
School and College
which was opened in 1927. The motif represents the logo of Achimota –
the black and white
keys of the piano. One can make melody on either the
black or white keys of
the piano, but one can make harmony by playing together both the
black and white keys of
Achimota, which at one time or the
other comprised primary,
secondary and university programs, was very much influenced by the
Phelp-Stokes Report on
Education in Africa and the programs at the
Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes in the US.
– MOTHER HEN
Symbol of MOTHERLINESS, PARENTAL CARE, PARENTAL DISCIPLINE, and TENDERNESS
From the proverbs: Akoko
baatan tia ne ba so a, onku no. Also, Akoko baatan na onim dea ne
Literal translation: When the
hen steps on the feet of her chicken, she does not mean to kill them.
is, parental admonition is not intended to harm the child, but to
correct the child.
good mother knows
what her children will eat. A good mother does not
only feed her children
food alone, she also feeds them with love, affection, warmth,
tenderness and care.
Symbol of RESISTANCE AGAINST FOREIGN DOMINATION, SUPERIOR MILITARY STRATEGY
This motif represents the
superior military strategy
with which Akan nations such as the Asante and Akwamu defeated the
Europeans who had
superior arms. An Asantehene is said to have remarked: “The white
man brought his
canon to the bush but the bush was stronger than the canon.”
Symbol of STRENGTH,
TOUGHNESS, RESILIENCY, POWER and SUPERIORITY
The babadua tree was used for
building fences and thatch roof frames.
In the past, before an asafo (the
militia) went to war, it is said that a pile of babadua would be
placed on top of a dug-out and a number of the asafo members
stood on the pile. If the pile did not break, that signified that
they had enough fighting
men. Babadua was used in constructing
barricades during war,
because it was particularly strong and resilient. It was also used
in house construction.
The use of this motif at the edge of
the woven cloth gives
tensile strength to the cloth and prevents unraveling or fraying.
This is a technical
innovation in Akan weaving.
Symbol of BRAVERY
AND HEROIC DEEDS, GLORIOUS ACCOMPLISHMENT
From the proverb: Akyem tete a
eka ne mmeramu.
Literal translation: When a
shield wears out, the framework still remains.
The good deeds of people live after them.
KOTWERE AGYEMAN – LEAN
YOUR POVERTY ON AGYEMAN
Some people have interpreted the
meaning of this motif in
such manner suggesting that there was a particular Asantehene (King
of the Asante Empire)
called Agyeman who was so benevolent that he took care of the poor.
Agyeman is an
appellation of every Asantehene, and benevolence is socially
expected of every Asantehene
Hence, the benevolence of the king is also indicated by the
kese a ogye adidi dodoo – the big pot that feeds many.
This motif rather represents the rise
of the bureaucracy in
Asante in the 19th century. Several men chose to serve in the
king’s court rather
than stay poor as village farmers. Very soon some of these
bureaucrats in the king’s court
became rich to the extent that some were vying for stool positions.
There is another kente cloth called wonya
a, wonye dehyee – you
may be rich, but you are not a royal, which
puts these pretenders to the stool in their proper place.
– PUFF ADDER’S HEAD
of EXPLOITATION, BEING OVER-BURDENED WITH WORK
From the proverb: Meso
annini mentumi a, wose menkofa nanka tire mmo kahyire.
Literal translation: I cannot
even carry the python, yet you are asking me to use the puff adder’s
head as the carrying
Symbol of EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE, SERVICE, ANTIQUITY, TIME, HEIRLOOM, and
From the proverb: Kyemfere se
odaa ho akye, na onipa a onwene no nso nye den?
Literal translation: The
potsherd claims it has been around from time immemorial; what about
the potter who molded
G. F. Kojo Arthur and Robert Rowe – 1998-2001
Kente Cloth is a hand-woven in Ghana and is traditionally worn by people of royalty due to its cost and complexity. See Kente Cloth for additional information.