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  • Your Ultimate Guide to Ghana Kente Cloth

    13 min read

    Ghana Kente Cloth Kente cloth is a colorful and vibrant fabric made in Ghana. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about this iconic textile, from its history to the best ways to wear it.

    Ghana Kente Cloth It's History and It's status in Ghanaian Culture

    Legend has it that two men came across an intricate and beautifully spun spider web in the forest, which was spun with a single thread. The men exchanged favors with the spider for its weaving secret, and this is how the kente weave came to be.

    ghana kente cloth lying draped over a couch

    The history of authentic Ghanaian Kente cloth is said to date back to the 17th century under the rule of Chief Oti Akenten. At this time, Ghana had established trade with the Middle and the Far East, and among the imports were silk fabrics and dyes; however, textile production in Ghana, according to research, had begun about 1000 BC.

    The history of authentic Ghanaian Kente cloth is said to date back to the 17th century under the rule of Chief Oti Akenten. At this time, Ghana had established trade with the Middle and the Far East, and among the imports were silk fabrics and dyes; however, textile production in Ghana, according to research, had begun about 1000 BC.


    Kente cloth is named after Chief Oti Akenten of the Asante, and under his decree, kente cloth was spun and fashioned exclusively for royal ritual use. This fact cemented the status and worth of kente cloth, which took on significance through the different colors and designs used to communicate strong messages rooted in Ghanaian Asante traditions.


    Although history identifies the 17th century as the beginning of kente cloth, traditionally made from cotton and silk-blend, some historians date the cloth to the 11th century. The origin of the name "kente" also differs, but the origin of Kente under chief Oti Akenten appears to be the most plausible because it ties in with the availability of silk acquired through trade at that time.


    Each color used to weave authentic kente cloth has a universal meaning, while the designs reflect the Asante ethos that pronounces righteous or virtuous values.


    The Asantehene (King of Ashanti) Nana Otumfoe Sir Osai Agyemang Prempeh II (ruled April 24, 1933 - May 27, 1970) Wearing Kente

    The Asantehene (King of Ashanti) Nana Otumfoe Sir Osai Agyemang Prempeh II (ruled April 24, 1933 - May 27, 1970)

    The universal meanings of the Kente Cloth

    • Gold: status, serenity, wealth, and royalty
    • Yellow: beauty, royalty, and wealth
    • Green: renewal or fertility, vegetation or forest
    • Blue: pure spirit, peace, harmony, and love
    • Red: passion, ancestors' blood, political, and death
    • Black: Spiritual awareness creating a bond with ancestors, strength, and heritage
    • Pink: love and happiness
    • Orange: wealth and joy
    • Silver: purity and joy
    • White: purity and festive
    • Grey: healing

    Authentic kente cloth represents the status of Ghana as a West African nation.

    The production of Kente cloth slowly increased, and the Ewe people, who were part of the Asante kingdom in the 18th century, adopted the kente cloth weaving style. The Ewe people who were widespread in the region did not abide by the Asante decree of reserving kente cloth for royalty. However, the origin and weave style of kente cloth was appreciated, and the cloth was viewed as prestigious and only to wore on special occasions.


    The Ewe introduced their designs, and the symbolism of these designs related more to daily life than to social standing or wealth. Kente cloth represents the national identity, and because authentic Kente is completely handwoven, it has retained its value as a prized possession to this day.


    Authentic kente cloth represents the status of Ghana as a West African nation. It has great traditional significance and serves to identify the nation wherever the Ghanaian people may be in the world. It remains a bold representation of a people who were engulfed in the slave trade, and today kente cloth is worn as a stole by African Americans with West African heritage who graduate from American colleges.

    Ghana Kente cloth cloth up to show weave

    Legend and the Origins of the Weaving For the Ghana Kente Cloth

    Legend has it that two men came across an intricate and beautifully spun spider web in the forest, which was spun with a single thread. The men exchanged favors with the spider for its weaving secret, and this is how the kente weave came to be.


    Kente cloth is weaved from a single thread, and traditionally it was men who reserved the privilege to be the weavers of Kente. After all, the task of weaving cloth for royalty was of such importance as it represented the history, culture and traditions, ethics, and religious beliefs of the Asante nation.


    Weaving kente cloth is time-consuming as it is woven by hand on a horizontal strip loom, producing a narrow band of cloth not more than four inches wide. These completed bands are later stitched together to create the final product, which varies in size.


    Weaving involves vertical threads called the warp, and horizontal threads called the weft. The design and color choice are meticulously followed in the weaving process. The weaving loom is constructed from wood and has four or six heddles or loops for holding thread.


    The warp thread is controlled by these heddles, which are attached to foot pedals with pulleys that have spools of thread inserted in them. The pullies are used to separate the warp thread so the weft thread can be inserted between them. Different color patterns, all symbolic, are created with either the warp or weft individually, or a combination of both can be used depending on the design requirements.

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    What is Kente cloth made from?

    Silk was the traditional thread used to weave kente cloth. Contemporary Kente is made from combinations of silk, cotton, wool, rayon which is a synthetic fiber, and metallic thread, which adds shine to the cloth.


    Although authentic kente cloth is still hand woven, the cloth is now also made with machines, but these machine-made Kente are African wax prints, making Kente-designed cloth more accessible and affordable.


    Kente cloth is not only used to make garments. Blankets, placemats, and pillowcases are also made from kente cloth.

    Ghana Kente Cloth Lying on Chair

    Who wears kente cloth?

    Both men and women wear kente cloth but differently. Men wear their kente cloth much the same way as a Roman toga, by wrapping the cloth around their body and draped over their left shoulder. Women wear their kente cloth in two pieces, as an ankle-length dress and a shawl which is often used as a baby sling.


    Kente cloth designed for men usually takes up to 24 strips to fashion and will measure about 8 feet wide and 12 feet long. The Kente cloth for women is smaller, using between 5 and 12 strips and measuring about 6 feet long. Age and body stature will influence the actual size of each individual.


    Fashion designers have incorporated the kente designs into contemporary clothing and are made for both sexes. As mentioned, in recent years graduating college students wear a Kente stole to their graduation ceremony.


    Regardless of the widespread popularity of kente cloth, it remains symbolic of the Ghanaian people, their history, and traditional values; and although designs are used in modern-day fashion items, it still holds prestige for the wearer, and most people will only wear their kente cloth garments on special occasions like births, weddings, funeral, and other important occasions.

    child wrapped in ghana kente cloth

    Ghana Kente Cloth Designs and their meaning.

    Each Kente design is given a name which is sometimes given by the weavers who are given the names in dreams or when in a spiritual state. The chief and elders will also appropriate a name for specially commissioned designs. Every kente design is registered and copyrighted to ensure the protection of Asante heritage. Here are three designs that relate to different aspects of life:

    • Fatima Nkrumah: This design stems from Kwame Nkrumah, who was the first president of Ghana when the country gained independence from Britain in 1957. Fatima was the first lady who was of Egyptian descent, and their marriage served as a symbol of unity and the avoidance of racial discrimination. 
    • Zig-zag motive: This design symbolizes life's meandering, which is never a smooth, straightforward journey but is littered with obstacles that must be overcome.
    • Mako Maso Adeae: this means my heart's desire and is a message to say "I love you" to a lady by leaving the kente cloth at her front door. This Kente cloth shows just how much warmth lies in the heart of those in love, and it is celebrated the first time the words "I love you" are uttered, even if they are spoken directly but delivered as a beautiful Kente cloth which is a memorable keepsake for any lady.

    A picture for Fathia Nkrumah with son Gamal . Fathia Nkrumah (1932-2007), the Egyptian wife of Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana

    A picture for Fathia Nkrumah with son Gamal . Fathia Nkrumah (1932- 2007), the Egyptian wife of Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana

    Ghana Kente Cloth Blankets and cloth as gifts

    Gifts of kente cloth carry powerful messages that include good health, wealth, strength, success, and so on. Specific designs will favor certain occasions, yet each design is a celebration in some form or another. Death is not celebrated, but the life of the deceased and their place with the ancestors is celebrated.


    Most West African families will have some form of kente cloth in their home that depicts the virtues of life and their deep-seated heritage as a people.

    Kente Cloth blankets and throws

    Kente cloth is more than just a cloth used as a garment. Over the centuries, the use of kente cloth in home decor has become the norm. A kente blanket or throw makes any bedroom aesthetically pleasing. The designs or patterns flow harmoniously, and the use of different colors will stand out as a signature piece in the room. Not all color combinations are contrasty and hard on the eye; there are color combinations that use softer colors that are more inviting and pleasing to the eye.


    The range of kente blankets and throws is vast, and without knowing the meaning of the designs with the color combinations, you will still be drawn to them even if it is just to feel the texture, weight, and softness. Knowing the name and meaning of the kente design is nice, but with the aesthetic and comfort value of these blankets and throws, you will be sold anyway.

    Knowing the history and messages embedded in kente cloth will add meaning to your own living space. You may even decide to use kente cloth as a decorative mural in your living room or lounge to add color and warmth to the space. Kente-styled scatter cushions on an otherwise bland leather, or material lounge suit adds that little bit of extra eye-catching color to your seating arrangement.


    Authentic Kente cloth is valued for its rich history and its link to nature. As a non-verbal communication tool, it has worked well to define the people of Ghana as people with great virtue.

    To get your own Ghana kente throw 

    Ghana kente throw wrapped up warm and snug

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    FAQ - The Questions You want Answered

    What is kente cloth used for in Ghana?

    Kente cloth is a type of traditional fabric that is primarily associated with the Akan people of Ghana.


    It is highly valued in Ghanaian culture and is used for a variety of purposes, including:

    1. Special occasions: Kente cloth is often worn during special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and other traditional ceremonies. It is considered a symbol of prestige and is often worn by chiefs, elders, and other important community members.
    2. Fashion: Kente cloth is also used to create fashionable clothing such as shirts, skirts, dresses, and ties. Many designers in Ghana and worldwide incorporate kente cloth into their designs, making it a popular fabric in the fashion industry.
    3. Home decor: Kente cloth is also used as a decorative item in homes and offices. It can create wall hangings, table runners, and other decorative pieces.
    4. Gifts: The kente cloth is a popular gift item in Ghana and is often given as a sign of respect, friendship, or appreciation.

    Overall, kente cloth is an important cultural symbol in Ghana and is used in various ways to celebrate and honor traditions and customs.

    What is Ghanaian kente?

    Ghanaian kente is a traditional cloth originating from the Akan people of Ghana.


    It is made from interwoven strips of silk and cotton, with bright and colorful patterns with different meanings and symbolism.


    Creating kente cloth is a time-consuming process involving a great deal of skill and craftsmanship.


    The weavers use a special loom to create intricate patterns often named after proverbs, historical events, or cultural beliefs.


    Kente cloth is highly valued in Ghanaian culture and is associated with prestige and status.


    It is often worn by chiefs, elders, and other important community members during special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and other traditional ceremonies.


    There are many different types of kente cloth, each with unique patterns and meanings.


    Some of the most popular types of Ghanaian kente include Adwinasa, Fathiafata Nsuasua, Mmarima, and Oheneba.


    Each type of kente cloth has its unique symbolism and is used for specific occasions or purposes.


    Overall, Ghanaian kente is an important cultural symbol representing the Akan people's rich history and traditions.


    It is a beautiful and intricate fabric highly valued in Ghanaian culture and appreciated worldwide for its beauty and symbolism.

    What culture is kente cloth from?

    Kente cloth is from the Akan culture, which is a West African ethnic group that is primarily located in Ghana and Ivory Coast.


    The Akan people have a rich cultural heritage, and kente cloth is one of their culture's most famous and recognizable aspects.


    The origins of kente cloth can be traced back to the 17th century when the Akan people began weaving strips of silk into intricate patterns.


    Over time, the production and use of kente cloth spread throughout the Akan culture and became an essential part of their traditions and customs.


    Today, kente cloth is an important cultural symbol in Ghana and is associated with prestige and status.


    It is worn during special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and other traditional ceremonies and is often used to express cultural identity and pride.


    Although kente cloth is primarily associated with the Akan culture, it has become a famous symbol of African heritage worldwide.


    It is appreciated for its beauty, intricate patterns, and rich cultural symbolism and is often used in fashion, home decor, and other art forms.

    Who first wore kente cloth?

    It is not known precisely who first wore kente cloth, as the origins of the fabric date back several centuries and have become a legend.


    However, it is believed that the Akan people of Ghana, primarily associated with kente cloth, have been weaving and wearing the fabric for several hundred years.


    According to Akan folklore, the technique for weaving kente cloth was first developed by two brothers, Kweku Amankwa and Watah Kraban, who saw a spider weaving its web in the forest and decided to replicate the pattern with silk threads.


    Over time, weaving kente cloth became more sophisticated, and the fabric became an important cultural symbol in Ghana.


    Today, kente cloth is primarily associated with the Akan people and is considered a symbol of prestige and status in Ghanaian culture.


    It is often worn by chiefs, elders, and other important community members during special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and other traditional ceremonies.

    When can you wear kente?

    Kente cloth is traditionally worn during special occasions and events in Ghanaian culture.


    Here are some examples of when kente cloth may be worn:


    1. Weddings: The bride and groom and their families often wear Kente cloth during traditional Ghanaian weddings.
    2. Funerals: Kente cloth is also commonly worn during funerals and is often used to signify the wearer's relationship to the deceased.
    3. Naming ceremonies: Kente cloth may be worn during naming ceremonies for newborns, which are important events in Ghanaian culture.
    4. Graduations: In Ghana, kente cloth is often worn by graduates during graduation ceremonies.
    5. Traditional festivals: Kente cloth is also worn during festivals such as the Aboakyer festival, celebrated by the people of Winneba in Ghana.
    6. Formal occasions: Kente cloth can be worn for formal occasions such as dinners, receptions, and other events.

    Overall, kente cloth is a versatile fabric that can be worn for various special occasions and events in Ghanaian culture.


    It is a symbol of prestige and status, and wearing kente cloth is a crucial way to show respect and honor for traditions and customs.

    Why is kente cloth so special?

    Kente cloth is a particular fabric originating from Ghana, West Africa, and is renowned for its vibrant colors and intricate designs.


    Here are a few reasons why kente cloth is considered so special:


    1. Historical significance: Kente cloth has a long and rich history in Ghanaian culture. It was initially worn by royalty and essential members of society as a symbol of prestige, wealth, and cultural identity. It is still worn for special occasions and ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and festivals.
    2. Hand-woven craftsmanship: Kente cloth is traditionally hand-woven on a loom by skilled artisans. The weaving process can take several weeks or months and requires much skill and patience. Each piece of kente cloth is unique, with its distinctive patterns and colors.
    3. Symbolism and meaning: The colors and patterns of kente cloth have symbolic meanings rooted in Ghanaian culture and history. For example, red represents blood, black represents aging and wisdom, and gold represents wealth and royalty. The patterns and designs also have meanings, such as the "zigzag" pattern, representing a snake, a symbol of wisdom.
    4. Versatility: Kente cloth can be used for various purposes, from clothing and accessories to home decor and artwork. It has also been incorporated into modern fashion and is popular among African-Americans as a way to connect with their heritage and cultural identity.

    Overall, kente cloth is a unique and vital cultural artifact representing Ghanaian culture's rich history and traditions. Its beauty, craftsmanship, symbolism, and versatility have made it a beloved and highly sought-after fabric worldwide.

    Where is kente cloth most popular?

    Kente cloth is most prevalent in Ghana, where it originated, and is considered a national symbol.


    It is an important part of Ghanaian culture and is worn for special occasions and ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and festivals.


    Kente cloth has also gained popularity outside of Ghana, particularly among African-Americans and others in the African diaspora who seek to connect with their cultural heritage.


    It is often worn as a symbol of pride and identity and has been incorporated into modern fashion and design.


    In addition, kente cloth has been embraced by the global fashion industry and can be found in clothing, accessories, and home decor items worldwide.


    Its vibrant colors, intricate designs, and cultural significance make it popular for those who appreciate traditional African textiles and craftsmanship.

    Can you wash kente cloth?

    Yes, you can wash kente cloth, but it requires special care to prevent damage to the fabric.


    Here are some tips for washing kente cloth:


    1. Hand wash: Kente cloth should be hand washed rather than machine washed to avoid damage to the delicate fibers and intricate designs. Fill a basin or sink with cool water and add a gentle detergent or fabric softener.
    2. Soak: Gently agitate the water to distribute the detergent, then soak the kente cloth in the water for 5-10 minutes. Do not rub or scrub the fabric, as this can cause the fibers to fray.
    3. Rinse: Drain the soapy water and rinse the kente cloth thoroughly with cool water. Press the fabric gently to remove excess water, but do not twist or wring it.
    4. Dry: Hang the kente cloth up to dry, preferably in a shaded area or indoors, away from direct sunlight. Do not tumble dry or use a clothes dryer, which can damage the delicate fibers and cause shrinkage.

    Washing kente cloth requires a gentle touch and careful attention to detail.


    With proper care, your kente cloth can be enjoyed for many years.

    Why do black graduates wear kente cloth?

    Black graduates wear kente cloth to celebrate and honor their African heritage and cultural identity during graduation ceremonies.


    Kente cloth has become a famous symbol of African cultural identity among black communities in the United States and worldwide.


    The tradition of wearing kente cloth at graduation ceremonies began in the 1990s when some African-American students started wearing it to express their cultural pride and stand out from the predominantly white graduating class.

    Many colleges and universities in the United States have embraced the tradition; some even provide kente cloth stoles for black graduates to wear during the ceremony.


    For black graduates, wearing kente cloth is a way to celebrate their achievements while honoring their cultural roots and their ancestors' struggles.


    It symbolizes pride, resilience, and unity and serves as a reminder of the importance of cultural identity and diversity in higher education and society.


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