Kente Cloth Weaving

The kente cloth is woven on a narrow horizontal wood structure called a loom. A heddle is an integral part of a loom. Each thread in the warp passes through a heddle, which is used to separate the warp threads for the passage of the weft. The typical heddle is made of cord or wire, and is suspended on a shaft of a loom. Each heddle has an eye in the center where the warp is threaded through. As there is one heddle for each thread of the warp, there can be near a thousand heddles used for fine or wide warps. A handwoven tea-towel will generally have between 300 and 400 warp threads, and thus use that many heddles.
In weaving, the warp threads are moved up or down by the shaft. This is achieved because each thread of the warp goes through a heddle on a shaft. When the shaft is raised the heddles are too, and thus the warp threads threaded through the heddles are raised. Heddles can be either equally or unequally distributed on the shafts, depending on the pattern to be woven.  In a plain weave or twill, for example, the heddles are equally distributed.

Pictured below is Kente being woven in the traditional way.

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kente cloth weaving

The warp is threaded through heddles on different shafts in order to obtain different weave structures. For a plain weave on a loom with two shafts, for example, the first thread would go through the first heddle on the first shaft, and then the next thread through the first heddle on the second shaft. The third warp thread would be threaded through the second heddle on the first shaft, and so on. In this manner the heddles allow for the grouping of the warp threads into two groups, one group that is threaded through heddles on the first shaft, and the other on the second shaft.
The Kente loom usually uses four heddles (asanan), but in special cases, six or seven heddles (asasia) may be used.

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Kente Weaving close-up shot

The cloth is woven in narrow strip (called ntomaban or bankuo) that is about 3-5 inches wide and about 5-6 feet long. Several strips are sewn together to make a wider piece of cloth for both men and women. A man’s cloth may contain up to 24 strips and measure about 5×8 feet. The woman’s two-piece cloth may contain 8-12 strips each piece.

Traditionally Kente is woven from silk however Kente woven from other threads such as rayon is just as authentic. The most important part of creating kente is the weaving technique used, colors chosen, patterns used and the skill of the artist.

Video of Kente Cloth being woven:

Ashanti Kente Cloth

Kente as we know it was developed by the Ashanti people in the 17th Century A.D. Kente is said to have originated when a man by the name of Ota Karaban and his friend Kwaku Ameyaw (hailing from the town of Bonwire) learned the art of making Kente Cloth by observing a spider weaving its spider web. They watched the spider carefully and mimicked its actions to weave the first Kente Cloth. They supposedly reported their accomplishment to their local chief, Nana Bobie, who in turn reported it to the Asantehene (Ashanti Chief). The Asantehene was very impressed by the craftsmanship, decreed it a royal cloth, and used it for special occasions to show his prestige. Today in Ghana, both the Ashanti, Ewe and many various tribes are well known for their expertise in creating this cloth.

Ghanaian Kente Cloth

Kente Cloth is local to Ghana, a country located in West Africa. Kente Cloth there was worn by royalty. It is hand woven in wooden looms and is of very high worth. It comes in a variety of patterns, colors and designs, each of which have different meanings. According to Ghanaian mythology, kente cloth was first created when 2 friends watched how a spider wove its web. By mimicking the actions of the spiders, they created Kente cloth the same way. This story, wether true or not, shows the harmony between Ghanaians and mother nature.

As we look back in history, the Kente cloth is reserved for the Kings and is associated with royalty and sacredness. This is worn only during important times even in today’s world. Though the cloth has widespread acceptance and usage still it is held in high esteem among the Akan tribe and the Ghanaians in general.

The Kente cloth is one of the most famous and wanted fabric in the whole of Africa. Kente cloth is more than just clothing to be worn however. For the Ghanaians this represents the history, philosophy, oral literature, religious beliefs, political thought and aesthetic principles of life. The various colours in the cloth symbolize various aspects of life. Blue symbolizes peace and harmony. Gold colour mostly worn by kings in ancient times symbolizes royalty, power, esteemed status, spiritual purity and holiness. This colour is also used by the high priests in ancient times. Pink and purple colours are associated with women. White and grey colours symbolize sanctification, holiness, cleansing rituals and are mostly used by priests and holy people.

Lots of patterns have been invented over the times for different occassions. The Obaakofoo Mmu Man pattern symbolizes democratic rule. Emaa Da stands for novel creativity and knowledge from experience. Sika Fre Mogya symbolizes responsibility to share monetary  success with one’s relations. These showcase the good nature and kind heartedness of the Ghanaian people.

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In modern times Bill Clinton, then President of the USA wore the Kente cloth over his suit when he visited Ghana in 1998. His wife Hillary Clinton also followed the act! The Kente cloth has started acquiring worldwide acceptation and its popularity has been on the rise, especially where African population is large.

DSC_3480_new_-e1489292053397 Ghanaian Kente Cloth DSC_3488_new_-e1489292041568 Ghanaian Kente Cloth  DSC_3479_new_-e1489292067440 Ghanaian Kente Cloth DSC_3405_new_-1-e1489292082313 Ghanaian Kente Cloth  

 IMG_4047-1-e1489292590397 Ghanaian Kente Cloth

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