Kente cloth

Kente cloth, 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 cloth has its origin in the Ashanti kingdom, and was adopted by people in Ivory Coast and many other West African countries. 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.

Kente is made in Akan lands such as Ashanti Kingdom, (Bonwire, Adanwomase, Sakora Wonoo, Ntonso in the Kwabre areas of the Ashanti Region) and among Akans. Kente is also produced by Akans in Ivory Coast. Lastly, Kente is worn by many other groups who have been influenced by Akans. It is the best known of all African textiles. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means basket in Akan dialect Asante. Akans refer to kente as nwentoma, meaning woven cloth.

The icon of African cultural heritage around the world, Akan kente is identified by its dazzling, multicolored patterns of bright colors, geometric shapes, and bold designs. Kente characterized by weft designs woven into every available block of plain weave is called adweneasa.

The Akan people choose kente cloths as much for their names as their colors and patterns. Although the cloths are identified primarily by the patterns found in the lengthwise (warp) threads, there is often little correlation between appearance and name. Names are derived from several sources, including proverbs, historical events, important chiefs, queen mothers, and plants.

Meanings of the colors in kente cloth:

  • black—maturation, intensified spiritual energy
  • blue—peacefulness, harmony and love
  • green—vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
  • gold—royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
  • grey—healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
  • maroon—the color of mother earth; associated with healing
  • pink—assoc. with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
  • purple—assoc. with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
  • Red—political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
  • silver—serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
  • white—purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • yellow—preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty

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