Kente cloth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Kente cloth, the traditional/national cloth of Ghana, is worn by several Ghanaian tribes, most especially the Akans, the Kingdom of Ashanti royalty (currently prevalent throughout Asanteman).

Kente, known as nwentoma in Akan, is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips made and native to the Akan ethnic group of Ghana. Kente is made in Akan lands such as the Ashanti Kingdom,[1] including the towns of Bonwire, Adanwomase, Sakora Wonoo, and Ntonso in the Kwabre areas of the Ashanti Region.[2] This fabric is worn by almost every Ghanaian tribe. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means basket in the Asante dialect of Akan. Akans refer to kente as nwentoma, meaning woven cloth. It is an Akan royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance and was the cloth of kings.[3] Over time, the use of kente became more widespread. However, its importance has remained and it is held in high esteem by southern Ghanaians. Globally, it is used in the design of stoles in graduation ceremonies.


Kente cloth varies in complexity. Ahwepan refers to a simple design of warp stripes, created using plain weave and a single pair of heddles. In contrast, adweneasa, which translates as "my skill is exhausted", is a highly decorated type of kente with weft-based patterns woven into every available block of plain weave. Because of the intricate patterns, adweneasa cloth requires three heddles to weave.[4][5]

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. The cloth symbolizes high in value.

Bonwire, Sakora Wonoo, Ntonso, Safo and Adanwomase is noted for Kente weaving. However, other nearby towns are also into Kente weaving. Some of these towns and villages are Abira and Ahodwo.

All these towns are located in the Kwabre East Municipal in the Ashanti region.


West Africa has had a cloth weaving culture for centuries via the stripweave method, but Akan history tells of the cloth being created independent of outsider influence. Kente cloth has its origin from the Akan-Ashanti kingdoms in Ghana. The origin of kente is in the Akan empire of Bonoman. Most Akans migrated out of the area that was Bonoman to create various states.[6] The Ewe people of Ghana claim the weaving of kente originates with them, although they are not claiming they invented the art of weaving. They suggest that the name is derived from Kete which relates to the two alternating rhythmic actions (ke and te, meaning open and press in the Ewe language) associated with the weaving of the loom. But the main creators are the Bonwire people of Asanteman in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Symbolic meanings of the colors[edit]

Akan Kente cloth color variations

[7][better source needed]

  • 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


Theora Video of Akan Kente clothing tailor preparing Kente attire in Adanwomase Kente village in Ashanti.

A variety of kente patterns have been invented, each traditionally associated with a certain concept or set of concepts.[8] 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.[9]

Legend has it that kente was first made by two Akan friends who went hunting in an Asanteman forest and found a spider making its web.[10] The friends stood and watched the spider for two days then returned home and implemented what they had seen.

Modern use of kente[edit]

Kente cloth used as a stole

Kente academic stoles are often used by African Americans as a symbol of ethnic pride.[11][12][13] This practice is also very popular with historically black Greek letter fraternities and sororities. African American students hold special ceremonies called "Donning of the Kente" where the stoles are presented to the graduates.[14]


  1. ^ "Ghana's Kente identifies Africans – Nana Addo". Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  2. ^ Online, Peace FM. "Scenes from ADAE K3SE3: Beautiful Kente On Display - PHOTOS". Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  3. ^ Editor (2016-03-26). "Bonwire Kente Weaving Village". Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  4. ^ Gilfoy, Peggy (1987). Patterns of life: West African strip-weaving traditions. Published for the National Museum of African Art by the Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 47. ISBN 9780874744750.
  5. ^ "Wrapper (kente, oyokoman adwireasu)". Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  6. ^ Kwasi Konadu, Kwasi Konadu, Indigenous medicine and knowledge in African society, Routledge, 2007. pp. 30–31.
  7. ^ Kente Cloth Archived 2009-01-06 at the Wayback Machine." African Journey. 25 Sep 2007.
  8. ^ Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols & Meanings.
  9. ^ G. F. Kojo Arthur and Robert Rowe (2001). "Akan Kente Cloths and Motifs". Akan Cultural Symbols Project. Marshall University. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  10. ^ West African Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols & Meanings – Bibliography[failed verification]
  11. ^ Lynch, Annette; Strauss, Mitchell D. (2014). Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 176. ISBN 9780759121508.
  12. ^ Matory, J. Lorand (2015). Stigma and Culture: Last-Place Anxiety in Black America. University of Chicago Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780226297736.
  13. ^ Boateng, Boatema (2011). The Copyright Thing Doesn't Work Here: Adinkra and Kente Cloth and Intellectual Property in Ghana. University of Minnesota Press. p. 140. ISBN 9780816670024.
  14. ^ "MTN-Ghana supports Kente Festival with cash, products". Retrieved 2019-05-20.

External links[edit]