African Fabrics 101: Kente Cloth

African Fabrics 101: Kente Cloth

Some time ago we wrote a blog on the African textiles and most recently we told you about the iconic Nsu Bura pattern. This time, we wanted to write about the bright and multi-coloured Kente cloth.

kente

Native to the Akan group in southern Ghana, Kente cloth was originally made of raffia fibers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was made of silk and could generally only be afforded by Asante royalty. Eventually, simpler designs made of a combination of silk and cotton became available for general citizens.

Kente is woven in thin strips that are sewn together. A characteristic Asante kente has geometric shapes woven in bright colors along the entire length of the strip. See how Kente cloth is intricately weaved together in the video below: 

 

Kente cloth was originally black and white, but dyes were developed from different plants and the range of colors evolved. For instance, blue was obtained from the indigo plant, red from dried cam wood, brown from Indian tamarind, and green from boiled spinach leaves. With increased trade, imported silks and cottons were unraveled to extend the color range.

Colors convey mood, dark shades being associated with grief and used for mourning ceremonies, while lighter shades are associated with happiness. Check out our Kente Pinterest board:

 

We were very intrigued by the meanings of the colors in Kente cloth:

  • Black: maturation, intensified spiritual energy
  • Blue: peacefulness, harmony, love
  • Green: vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
  • Gold: royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
  • Grey: healing and cleansing rituals
  • Maroon: mother earth, healing
  • Pink: female essence of life, a mild, gentle aspect of red
  • Purple: feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
  • Red: political and spiritual moods, bloodshed, sacrificial rites and death
  • Silver: serenity, purity, joy,
  • White: purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • Yellow: preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty
  • Now that you know the meaning of colours of kente cloth, what colors would you pick for your custom cloth?

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    Comments

    Candace Howell September 22 2019

    How much does 3 yards cost?

    Tyree D. Neely February 12 2019

    I would like to purchase three to four yards of any material how much is that