Kente Clothing: How West Africa Merged The Aesthetic and Intellect
Somewhere in the bustling town of Bonwire in Ghana, a folk story is being passed on from one generation of artists to the next. Draped in bedazzling striped clothing, the custodians of a long venerated art are recounting the story of Nana Koragu and Nana Ameyaw returning to their village on the fateful day when they came across a spiderweb. Struck by its intricate design, the two friends (in some traditions, brothers), decided to take the web back to their homes. However, when they took the web off the banana tree it broke and lost its design. Yet, fate smiled upon the weavers, and their return to the jungle the following day was rewarded with the sight of another web in the process of being woven. As they watched in awe, Ananse, a large, magical, yellow and black spider weaved the web with an enchanting dance that used techniques like twisting, turning, and dipping. Armed with this newfound knowledge, the two returned home to make textile history…
Two Ashanti kente weavers in Bonwire, Ghana. Bonwire remains widely acknowledged as the home of kente weaving even today.
Two Ashanti noblemen in Kumasi, Ghana, wearing elaborately woven kente garments at a celebration for the new Asantehene, the Ashanti chief. Kente clothing has a large ceremonial role to play among the Ashanti people.
- The simplest of these is the Ahwepan or Hweepan kente pattern, which has no design associated with it, hence “hwee” signifying nothing.
- The Akyem kente pattern, named after a local bird, is noted for its colourful nature.
- The Faprenu kente pattern has two (prenu) warp sheets woven together with one weft sheet, resulting in its incredible strength.
- Adwin kente patterns, named for skill, involve intricate designs.
- The adwinasa pattern has been particularly notable. It literally means the exhaustion of skill, representing a magnum opus into which the creator has expended everything they have.
Tradition meets modernity in this expressive adwinasa patterned pair of canvas sneakers and handbag.
Originally titled Fathia Fata Nkrumah”, in honour of former president of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah and his wife Fathia, this pattern was later renamed Obaakofo mmu man.
The 1st of August 1834 is a special day in the hearts and minds of Africans, and the African diaspora. Emancipation Day is celebrated for the final abolition of slavery in the British Colonies, and celebrations in Ghana frequently witness beautiful kente dresses like the one pictured above, adorning a young girl in Assim Manso, Central Ghana.
- Lewis, George H. “CULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN BLACK WEST AFRICA: KENTE CLOTH AND MAMMY WAGONS.” Michigan Sociological Review, no. 5, 1978, pp. 22–32. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44952584.
- Smith, Shea Clark. “Kente Cloth Motifs.” African Arts, vol. 9, no. 1, 1975, pp. 36–39. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3334979.
- Adjaye, Joseph K., and Adrianne R. Andrews, editors. Language, Rhythm, and Sound: Black Popular Cultures into the Twenty-First Century. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zw866.