Kente Cloth Explained


The 2013 Spring/Summer catwalks were awash with African inspired prints  click here to see our pick of this summer’s best collections.
These new catwalk collections have given us a whole new way to wear traditional African prints, but traditional Kente cloth can be traced way back to circa 3000 BC.

Kente cloth was originally known and developed by the people of the Asante town ‘Bonwire’, who industrialised the production of the cloth in the 1650s. Despite being adopted by other West African countries such as Ivory Coast, Kente is recognised as the Ghanaian traditional costume.

Bonwire village_MyGhanaRoots

The cloth is produced using a hand-woven loom which is operated using both the hands and feet. The needle, which tread the wrap are placed between the toes, then a shuttle passing from the left hand to the right inserts each weft.

Check out the video below to see a weaver in action.

VIDEO: Ghanaian Kente Weaver

Each piece of cloth can be identified for its symbolic meaning by the colours present, the patterns identified on the cloth, or by the individual names given.  The names given are either based on an historical event or individual achievements etc.

Fathia deserves Nkrumah kente design)myghanaroots The pattern in the image (to the left) is referred to as  Fathia fata Nkrumah (Fathia deserves Nkrumah) or Obaakofo mmu  oman (One person does not rule a nation).

This cloth commemorates the marriage between Kwame Nkrumah and Fathia of Egypt.Kwame Nkrumah made a big statement when he  married Fathia who was from Egypt. This marriage symbolised the unity between two nations, enforcing his vision of a united Africa.

Some prefer to call the cloth by its original name Obaakofo mmu  oman to remind us that a dictatorship rule  is not the way forward for the Ghanaian nation.

Sika Futoro_Kente_Myghanaroots

This pattern (left) is one that links directly to Ghana’s history of gold & wealth pre-colonialism. It is called Sika Futoro and can be translated as Gold Dust. As you can imagine, it was worn by the Elite and those who wanted to convey their wealth and prestige within the community.

Originally the cloth was reserved for Ghanaian royalty, however now many people from different nations use it for many different purposes, such as to attend different events like weddings and funerals. Traditionally men wore the Kente cloth as a single piece similar to the toga in ancient Rome, whilst women wore two smaller pieces, one wrapped around the waist as a skirt, and the other wrapped around the torso and drapped over the left shoulder.


So now next time you see someone wearing a Kente pattern or you wear it yourself, you can appreciate where it all came from! ;-)

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4 Responses to “Kente Cloth Explained”
  1. David says:

    Nice article.. that Kente cloth weaver was serious!

  2. Viginia Luther says:

    Thank you

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