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A man weaves kente cloth using a traditional loom in Bonwire village, Ashanti region, Ghana.

Kente cloth, known locally as nwentoma, is a type of silk fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the country of Ghana. It is the Tribal cloth for many Ethnic groups in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Togo and,it is a pan-African symbol.



A man weaving kente cloth in Ghana.

"Kente cloth" has its origin with 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 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 is made by the Akan people (including the Asante, Bono, Fante and Nzema). Kente 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. Lastly, Kente is worn by other groups like the Ewe and Ga who have been influenced by Akans. It is the best known of all African textiles. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means "basket." The Akan peoples refer to kente as Nwentoma or "woven cloth".

The icon of African cultural heritage around the world, Asante 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 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 (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.

Symbolic meanings of the colors

Symbolic meanings of the colors in Kente cloth:[1]

  • 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; assoc. with the moon
  • white -- purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • yellow -- preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility


A variety of kente patterns have been invented, each of which has a certain concept or concepts traditionally associated with it. [2] For example, the Obaakofoo Mmu Man pattern symbolizes democratic rule; Emaa Da, novel creativity and knowledge from experience; and Sika Fre Mogya, responsibility to share monetary success with one's relations.[2]

Legend has it that kente was first made by two friends who went hunting in a forest and found a spider making its web.[3] The friends stood and watched the spider for two days then returned home and implemented what they had seen. The mode of weaving that produces Kente has been part of West African culture for centuries via the Stripweave method. Modern Kente is unique to Ghana and, is worn by all Ethinic groups in the Southern Part of Ghana and, part of the Northern Part of Ghana. How the Kente Cloth is worn is unique to Ghana and, originates with the Akan people.

Kente cloth has gained additional prominence on athletics apparel for Georgetown University.[3] Such designs were originally worn in the 1994 season and have been used ever since, with some intermission. The design is controversial in the Georgetown community to an apparent lack of connection to the origins of the kente cloth's African tradition.

See also


  1. ^ Kente Cloth." African Journey. 25 Sep 2007.
  2. ^ Kente Cloth samples
  3. ^ [[1]]

External links

  • Akan Cloths - Part of Marshall University's 'Akan Arts' project, this site describes kente and several kente patterns
  • Kente Weavers of Ashanti - Web video about traditional kente weaving, produced by Andy Carvin.
  • Kente Cloth weavers - provides a free service to publish web sites for African artisans, several Kente cloth weavers from Ghana are listed on this page.


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