Kente (“KEN-tay”) is considered to be the most famous of all African textiles, and one of the World’s most complicated weavings. A genuine kente cloth is made by the Ewe and Ashanti weavers in Ghana, a country in Africa. This cloth is special as it is worn as a piece of clothing and each pattern design has a name and a special meaning. The origins of kente cloth is sometimes said to date back to the 12th century but the exact date is unknown. In the past, royalty and important figures of society wore this cloth for very special occasions. Today, kente cloth is worn by people of all social status.
Each cloth design has a deep symbolic meaning and is used to provide a social and political commentary. It is also a visual representation of moral, social, ethical, philosophical values, history, social code of conduct and religious beliefs. Moreover, the choice of gorgeous colors is significant in each design, as each color also is symbolical. According to tradition, black represents Africa, red represents the blood of forefathers, yellow represents gold, and green represents the richness of the land.
To make a magnificent kente cloth the artist hand weaves a yarn on a narrow horizontal loom. The artist will make strips of cloth that are about 3-5 inches wide and about 5-6 feet long. Customarily only men are allowed to weave the cloth. Women, on the other hand, sew strips of the cloth together to form glorious garments.
The cloth has seen many changes over the past few centuries. Before, all of the thread used was made from silk. Now, this famous cloth is made from rayon, cotton, and silk, thus making it affordable to everyone. As of today, new patterns with new meanings are emerging, but many of the original patterns are still used in weaving. Kente is now made into bags, sandals, shirts, and other fashionable pieces for commercial sales.
- Kente Cloth: History and Culture by E Asamoah-Yaw & Osei-Bonsu Safo-Kantanka
- Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity