African Fabrics 101: Kente Cloth
Native to the Akan group in southern Ghana, Kente cloth was originally made of raffia fibers.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: