African fabrics are undeniably beautiful and vibrant as a result these fabrics have become a fashion trend that designers use to incorporate into their designs. Some of these fabrics are the African print, Dashiki, lace, the kente etc.
The Kente fabric is a woven fabric produced by the people of Ashanti kingdom. The history of The Kente is an ancient one dated centuries ago. Kente cloth is probably the most universally recognised of all African fabrics. The word “kente” means basket, and the cloth is so-named because of its resemblance to a woven basket design.
Kente is a popular fabric from West Africa and adored worldwide. This colourful fabric is a spectacle of beauty that reveals the African pride and heritage. Kente’s distinctive patterns are printed onto various materials destined for numerous uses; from fashion accessories to homeware and anything in between. While its usage increases, there is little known about the cloth itself, its origin and how it came to become so popular.
The Kente fabric is closely linked to the history of the Ashanti nation in West Africa, more precisely in Ghana and the Ewe of Ghana and Togo. It was first woven in the 17th century. According to Ashanti mythology, the ever cunning trickster Anansi the spider spun a complex web which inspired two brothers, Nana Koragu and Nana Ameyaw to create the first kente design.
Traditionally the kente fabric is woven horizontally with narrow-strips on men’s treadle looms. Individual strips of kente typically feature alternating segments of warp-faced, stripe patterns with weft-faced geometric patterns. The woven strips range from three to five inches in width and are sewn together edge-to-edge to produce men’s cloths of approximately twelve feet by six feet (twenty-four strips) and women’s cloths of six feet by three to four feet (nine to twelve strips).
In the days of our ancestors, kente was not worn by the ordinary person because of its traditional value as it was intended only for royalty. This proves the value indigenous people of the Ashanti tribe gave this unique fabric. The oldest kente fabric was initially black and white but over time weavers found ways to modify it and incorporate bright and vibrant colours.
Kente fabric designs vary, in designs, colours, and patterns with each having their own unique story and significance. Some of the meanings of the colours of kente are Black – Spiritual strength, Blue – harmony, Gold – Royalty, Green- Growth, White – pureness and so much more in this culture rich fabric.
Initially, the cloth was woven with silk and cotton and reserved for the sole use of the Royal Families, including Chiefs and Queen Mothers. Traditionally Kente men’s cloths are worn toga style, draped around the body with the left shoulder and arm covered and the right shoulder and arm exposed. Women wear two cloths of different sizes as upper and lower wrappers and often have a third piece as a
baby carrier. Queen mothers and more recently other women of stature may wear a single cloth like a man. Regardless, kente is primarily festive dress worn at a variety of annual festivals. It is also used in other traditional contexts as a drum wrapper, a palanquin liner, umbrella fabric, fan and shield covering, amulet casing, and even loincloths.
Today, things have changed with respect to tradition and kente is no longer intended only for princes or kings. It is accessible to everyone if and only if you have the means, you can wear kente as you wish.
As much as tradition and culture are important to us in Africa, it is also important to us to move with the times without losing a sense of where we come from. Mablé Agbodan with her source of inspiration and her artisans from different horizons in Africa, has implemented this spirit of creativity and innovation to give another channel of access to kente so it can always be worn in Africa and around the world.
Finally, this kente fabric is hand-woven 100% cotton by Ghanaian artisans and this is the pride of all Africa and especially West Africa where the handmade production is celebrated.
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