Kente cloth is the best known and most recognizable African fabric. It's a hand woven cloth with geometric shapes, bold designs, and bright colors. Kente is worn by many in the African diaspora as a statement of their pride in their African heritage. For example, students will often wear a strip of kente on their graduation gowns. This colorful cloth originates from Ghana, in West Africa.
|Colorful Kente Cloth|
Photo Credit: John Nash (CC)
Kente comes from word "kenten" which means basket. It's made by the Ashanti people of Ghana, the Ewe of Ghana & Togo, and the Akans in Cote d'Ivoire. First made in the 17th century, it was originally the cloth of Kings, and only worn by royalty. Now it's the national cloth of Ghana, often worn for special occasions, like festivals, ceremonies, weddings and births.
Ashanti chiefs carry extra kente when gathering with the king, because if they're wearing the pattern the king has chosen, they have to immediately change. Read more about Ashanti royalty and chiefdom here.
Photo Credit: Vicki See (CC)
To make kente, bright brilliant colors in silk or cotton are used. They are woven on narrow looms 4" to 8" wide, and these narrow strips are sewn together to make the fabric. Traditionally only woven by men, the skills are passed down from one generation to the next.
See more examples of Kente cloth here.