Kente is an indigenous Ghanaian textile that has won the hearts of many over the years. Today, Kente cloth has made appearances in popular culture throughout the world. Ghanaian Kente in particular, is known for its lively colours and quality. It symbolizes wealth, royalty, elegance, spiritual purity and honorable achievement. With its conspicuous colors and amazing designs, one can only wonder at the human ingenuity and creativity behind the Kente Cloth.
Kente Cloth Origin
Kente Cloth originated with the Ashanti people of Ghana. It dates back 375 years, conceived in a village called Bonwire. According to legend, Kurugu and Ameyaw, two brothers from this village, went hunting one afternoon and came across a spider spinning a web. They were amazed by the beauty of the web and thought that they could create something like it. Upon returning home, they made the first cloth out of black and white fibers from a raffia tree.
How Is Kente Made?
“Kente” is woven on ancient hand looms with craftsmen operating the loom with their hands and feet. Hand-woven silk or cotton yarns are spun into four-inch wide lengths to weave kente. The needle, which tread the wrap are placed between the toes and a shuttle passing from the left hand to the right hand in weft movement inserts the weft. These pieces are arranged and hand sewn together to create a large panel.
Emergence Of Color in Kente Cloth
One of the greatest weavers, came up with the idea of using the bark and seeds of local trees to create dye. Weavers would shave the bark from trees, grind their seeds, and then pound both together to produce dyes. There were different trees that created red, green, and yellow dyes, which is why these are the traditional kente colors. The threads would then be soaked in the dye and woven together to create colorful fabrics for the king.
The first colorful kente cloth was worn by Otumfuo Nana Prempeh I, a former Ashanti king, and was named Oyokoman after the clan to which he belonged.
Patterns Of Kente
There are over 350 patterns for Kente Cloths. The patterns are created during the hand weaving process and are determined by the manner in which the threads are intertwined.
In Popular Culture, designer Jeremy Scott uses Kente Cloth in an Adidas Originals.
Although machine made Kente is now widely available, original hand woven Kente is still reserved for formal occasions. To this day, Bonwire is still the most famous center for Kente Cloth weaving.