Friday, 4 October 2013

Wrapped in Style (African Textile): KENTE

Africa has this aura of life and beauty. Today I am going to write on the KENTE textile of Africa. I have seen the fabric material several times and never knew what it was called up until today. Truth be told, each time I see this piece of fabric and design my head spins, I love it and I am so searching for it.

The Kente fabric is believed to have originated from the Ashanti people of Ghana. Legend has it that; two brothers (Ameyam and Kurugu) from Bonwire while hunting observed a spider weaving its web. It was fascinating to them so they went back to their town and practiced it using black and white thread extracts from a raffia tree. The outcome is the Kente clothing.
Colors were added to the Kente material when their king insisted that the clothing can be enhanced and become extra-ordinary if it is produced in other colors.
Trees of different colors were used as dye and the threads are in them and woven to produce glorious patterns.

Just like every other African art and art in general, the Kente is beyond a piece of clothing. It isn't just someone's idea. The Kente patterns are made to represent the history, beliefs, ethics, and social values of the Ashanti people. This can be seen in the names given to each pattern. Before becoming a master Kente weaver, one must first know the patterns, their meanings, and how to create them.

Names of some common patterns and their meanings
  • Ohene Anewa: The king sees everything
  • Fatene: Go straight to Agyeman
  • Niata: Two-edged sword
  • Nkyimkyim: Life is not a straight path
  • Afa: I have taken it

The Kente is one piece of clothing that holds a variety of meanings and events. It is so rich in itself. In times past, the Kente was reserved for very special events and was associated with those with royal blood. It is more widespread in its usage today but still holds a heritage of culture, the Ashanti culture. Symbols also have their various meanings such as the golden stool that represents authority in Ghana, the hearts desires, all fingers are not equal and several other symbols.

Apart from names, patterns, and symbols, the Kente colors hold their own meaning. Some colors and their meanings include:

  • White: Symbolizes purification, healing, and sanctification, contact with the spirits and deities, and festive occasions.
  • Black: From the notion that as things get older, they become darker, black symbolizes maturity, both physical and spiritual. 
  • Gold: It symbolizes elegance, superior quality, wealth, royalty, and spiritual purity.
  • Yellow: It represents fertility, royalty, wealth, sanctity, and vitality.
  • Blue: Good fortune, peacefulness, harmony, and spiritual sanctification.
  • Red: Red is used as a symbol for blood shed, heightened political mood, struggle, or even death.
  • Green: It symbolizes growth, fertility, fruitfulness, abundance health, spiritual rejuvenation.
  • Pink: Pink is associated with female life essence. It symbolizes pleasantness, calmness, sweetness, tenderness.
  • Silver: It is associated with the moon. It represents joy, serenity, and purity.
The Kente fabric is a must have if you are a fashion lover. Hope you enjoyed the post.

...some Kente inspired designs



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Estelle. Do visit often as we explore Africa's great fabrics

  2. Love the colours and the african prints!!

    Cheers from Live. Laugh. Love & Make Up

    1. Thanks Brenda. You could get one for yourself. *winks*