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The History of Kente Cloth

Legend has it that kente fabric was first made by two friends who went hunting in a forest and found a spider making its web. The friends stood and watched the spider for two days then returned home and implemented what they had seen.  



 

"Kente cloth" is produced by the Akan people. It is a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. Kente was the cloth of kings. Over time, the use of kente fabric became more widespread, however its importance has remained and it is held in high esteem in the Akan family and the entire country of Ghana.

In Ghana, kente cloth is made by the Akan people (including the Asante, Bono, Fante and Nzema). Kente fabric is also produced by Akan groups in Cote d'Ivoire, like the Baoule and Anyin, who trace their ancestry back to Ghana before the rise of the Ashanti Empire. It is the best known of all African textiles. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means "basket." The Asante peoples refer to kente cloth as Nwentoma or "woven cloth".

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



Symbolic meanings of the colors in African Kente cloth:

     Black kente cloth-- maturation, intensified spiritual energy

     Blue kente cloth-- peacefulness, harmony and love

     Green kente cloth-- vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal

     Gold kente cloth-- royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity

     Grey kente cloth-- healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash

     Maroon kente cloth-- the color of mother earth; associated with healing

     Pink kente cloth-- associated with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red

     Purple kente cloth-- associated with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women

     Red kente cloth-- political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.

     Silver kente cloth-- serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon

     White kente cloth-- purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions

     Yellow kente cloth-- preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility

Check out some of our featured kente fabrics in our store and design your own fashions.

 


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