Kente Cloth: The Ghanaian National Cloth Originally
Worn by Kings and Queens
Why did we choose the kente cloth as imagery for this site?
Because, quite simply, it’s one of the most recognisable symbols of Ghana – alongside to gold, cocoa and Nkrumah. It’s also an icon of African cultural heritage.It’s bright, dazzling and bold colours and designs are known and appreciated the world over.The kente cloth was originally worn by kings, queens, elders and the affluent in society. These days however, due to it’s popularity, it is worn by all and sundry. At least by those who wish to make a statement!
The term ‘kente’ comes from the word ‘kenten’ – which means basket. The Asantes also refer to it as nwentoma or “woven cloth.
The early Kente cloth weavers used palm leaf fibers,(also known as raffia) and wove them into a basket like pattern cloth. Apparently, the weaving was derived from how a spider weaves its web.
This delicate art is most popular among the Ashantes (especially in the areas of Bonwire, Ahodwo, Ntonso, Sakora and Wonoo) and Ewes of Ghana and it’s history dates back to as early as the 17th Century.
It is traditionally solely hand-woven on an horizontal treadle loom to produce a fabulous fabric with a unique sheen, providing instant stature to the wearer.
As you can imagine, this is not a job for the impatient! It requires a lot of discipline,love and attention.
Kente Textile Colours And Their Meanings (Courtesy of Ghana Embassy)
|Yellow||represents the yolk of
the egg as well as certain fruits and vegetables. The colour is a
symbol for things that are holy and precious.
|Pink|| is used to symbolize
gentle qualities such as calmness, sweetness, and tenderness.
|stands for blood and
for strong political and spiritual feelings.
|Maroon||is associated with the
colour of Earth, the mother. It represents healing and protection
|Blue||stands for the sky and
is used to symbolize holiness, peace, harmony, good fortune, and
|is associated with
plants and stand for growth and good health.
|Gold||like the metal gold,
is a symbol of royalty, wealth, and spiritual purity.
|White||represents the white
of an egg as well as the white clay that is used in certain
rituals. It stands for purity and healing.
|stands for aging
because in nature things get darker as they get older. Black also
stands for strong spiritual energy, and the spirits of the
which are used for spiritual cleansing.
|Silver||stands for the moon
and represents serenity, purity and joy.
|like maroon, is
associated with Earth and with healing.
Kente cloth is usually worn during festivals, graduations, religious and other sacred occasions.
It is also given as a gift for our-dooring (traditional child naming), weddings and other special events. Whatever the occasion it instantly and effortlessly brings immense honour and prestige to the proceedings.
And when it comes to adorning this royal garment, there are obvious gender differences.
A man’s size kente cloth measures 8ft wide by 2ft long and is worn with ‘adasa’ – a type of long and very loose shorts and a slip called ‘aheneba’. Some men like to wear a ‘jumpa’ – a type of collar-less shirt as an under-garment. The cloth is worn in the same way as the ‘toga’ was worn by ancient Greeks.
The women, on the other hand, wear it in two pieces. Each piece is about two yards long and forty-five inches wide. They wrap the cloth around their waist like a very long tight skirt – usually with a blouse made out of plain (mostly white) material. The second piece is either hung loosely over the arm or used as head gear.
Individual kente strips are very popular abroad, especially in the United States, where it’s used by being sewn academic robes or choir gowns as a sign of African heritage by the black population.
The popularity, mentioned above, has produced an inferior ‘print’ version which to be honest has its uses – particularly in T-shirts, baseball caps, sun visors and other merchandise aimed at young ‘trendy’ natives and tourists alike.
But as they say: ‘there’s nothing like the real thing’. And there’s no denying that the kente cloth –this brilliantly woven textile with a fabulous history and tradition is the real thing.