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Kente – Ghana National Cloth

 

“KENTE” is a brilliantly colourful fabric, entirely hand-woven by Ghanaian weavers. The brilliant colours and intricate designs associated with Kente have definitely made this fabric the best known of all Ghanaian, and perhaps even all West African textiles. Every design has a story with a proverbial meaning, giving each  cloth its own distinction.

Textile manufacturing in Ghana is an industry consisting of ginneries and textile mills producing batik, wax cloth, fancy printed cloth and Kente cloth. Firms have located in Ghana to serve local and regional markets with printed African patterned fabrics. The industry has shown signs of significant growth in recent years, promoting high-quality traditionally designed fabrics as “Made in Ghana” to niche markets, especially the US.

Ghanaian textile companies prefer to locate within designated industrial areas to take advantage of Ghana’s free zone regime and stable operating environment. Today, Ghana’s textiles industry include vertically integrated mills, horizontal weaving factories and the traditional textile manufacturing firms involved in spinning, hand-weaving and fabric-processing.

Ghana Textile exports include:

Cotton yarn
Cotton fabric
Printed fabric
Polyester fabric
Blankets
Bed sheets

The dry, savannah climate in the northern regions of the country is ideal for the cultivation of cotton, which is the primary material used by mills, weavers, batik, and tie-dye manufacturers in Ghana.

The industry is supported by National Vocational Training Institutes throughout the country. These institutes provide basic practical and theoretical training in tailoring and dressmaking. There are also a growing number of private fashion design institutes and internationally acclaimed designers that teach latest techniques to aspiring textile designers.

The government has initiated various policies aimed at restructuring and improving the textiles industry. The objectives include

  • Increase of employment opportunities for the growing population
  • Expansion and diversification of the economy
  • Promotion of both domestic and foreign investment

More about Kente

Kente, known as nwentom in Akan, is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the Akan ethnic group of South Ghana. Kente is made in Akan lands such as Ashanti Kingdom, (Bonwire, Adanwomase, Sakora Wonoo, Ntonso in the Kwabre areas of the Ashanti Region) and by Akans in Ivory Coast. It is also worn by many other groups who have been influenced by Akans. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means basket in Akan dialect Asante. Akans refer to kente as nwentoma, meaning woven cloth. It is an Akan royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance and was the cloth of kings.

Over time, the use of kente became more widespread. However, its importance has remained and it is held in high esteem with Akans. The Ewe people especially those from Agortime-Kpetoe of Ghana also claim that, Kente which they also refer to as Agbamevor has always been their traditional cloth. According to their history, weaving was the skill they came with when they migrated from Egypt through Nigeria to their present location in Ghana. Per the oral history of the people, during the Ashante wars they captured some of their men who were skilled in the weaving of Agbamevor.

These captured men were asked by their captors (Ashantes) to teach them how to weave Agbamevor; the Ewe kente experts instruct them to “Ke” meaning spread or open in the Ewe language, pass the waft through, and “Te” meaning tighten or press also in Ewe. For that reason, the Ewes believe that the name Kete originates from the method used to weave such cloths which is also the same name that has been corrupted into kente, as time goes on.

Uses Of Kente
Kente cloth is usually worn for ceremonies, festivals, and other sacred occasions. It is also given as a gift for weddings, child naming ceremonies, graduations, and
other special events.Women wear the cloth in 2 pieces
– 1 piece about 2 yards long and 45 inches wide wrapped round the waist to form a floor-length skirt worn over a blouse specially sewn in plain material. The other Kente piece was either hung loosely over the arm or used as a shawl or stole.

Men wear the cloth in much the same way as the ‘Toga’ was worn by the ancient Greeks, and it would seem that these ancient people must have been in contact centuries ago.

Traditional Way Of Wearing
Kente Cloth By Both Genders

Kente Patterns
The patterns of the cloth have evolved with the rigid standards of society itself, so one can easily say that if Kente were taken away from Ghana, it would be like taking the ‘Kimono’ away from Japan. Ghana and the Kente are culturally inseparable.

The patterns are so intricate that the artist, amid a welter of balls of cotton thread of every colour, must sometimes snip off tiny bits to be applied over a width of about 1 centimeter, or even one milimetre, while carefully counting the wool threads.

Kente Samples/Designs

Obi Nkye Obi Kwan Mu
Si
(o-Bee n-che o-Bee k-wahn moo see)
The name of this pattern translates into “sooner or later one could stray into another person’s path.”
The meaning of this saying is that nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes.
If someone happens to get in your way or does something to offend you, it is important to be understanding and to forgive that person.
Asonawo Ahahamono Emaa Da (ahs-OHN-awoh ah-ahamo-no e-MAH da)
This cloth represents “the green snake of the Asona,” one of the
seven families.The Asante social system has seven main families. Each family has its own responsibilities and rights.
Fathia Fata Nkrumah (Fa-THEA
fah-TA n-KROH-mah)
The translation for the name of this pattern is “Fathia is a befitting wife for Nkrumah.” Fathia was a charming Egyptian woman who
married Nkrumah, the first president of the Republic of Ghana. Their marriage was considered special because it represented the unity of African peoples on the continent.
Abusua Ye Dom (AH-boo-soo-ah
yeh dohm)
The name for this pattern means, “the extended family is a force.”
This cloth celebrates the extended family and its important role in
maintaining the well being of its members.

The History Of Ghanaian Kente
The history of Kente weaving extends back more than 400 years. The word “Kente” comes from the word “kenten”, which means basket. The very first Kente weavers used raffia, or palm leaf fibers, and wove them into a cloth that looked like a basket.

One story about Kente says that two friends learned to weave by observing a spider weave its web. They wove in imitation of the spider, using raffia fibers to create a strip of fabric.
Their leaders were so impressed with this new cloth that it became the royal cloth and was saved for special occasions. There are more than 300 different patters of Kente cloth. Each pattern has a name and its own meaning. The meanings come from
past events, religious beliefs, political ideas, and social customs.

Kente Colours And Their Meanings

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.
Red 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 from evil.
Blue stands for the sky and is used to symbolize holiness, peace, harmony, good
fortune, and love.
Green 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.
Black 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 ancestors.
Grey represents ashes, which are used for spiritual cleansing.
Silver stands for the moon and represents serenity, purity and joy.
Purple like maroon, is associated with Earth and with healing.

Source: Ghanareview.com