Kente is the name for a silk and cotton cloth traditionally handwoven on wooden looms in Ghana. Today it is an instantly recognisable design made with different interpretations in a 100% cotton print.
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Legend has it that two men from Bonwire, the home of Kente which is a village in the Ashanti region came across a spider spinning a web and this inspired Kente weaving and designs. The spider called Ananse is a popular character in Ashanti folklore and a fable known for being knowledgeable, creative and powerful. Ananse asked for favours in return for sharing his weaving skills.
Asantehene Osei Tutu, the first ruler and king of the Ashanti kingdom was so impressed when he found out about Kente that he decided it would only be reserved for royals and for use during special occasions. Kente print these days can be worn as everyday wear however Ghanaians typically and traditionally wear it on special occasions because of its origins. The original woven cloth even today is reserved for special occasions due to its cost, weight and as it still holds prestige.
Kente colours are often vibrant and the colours represent different meanings. In western culture we see Kente as an expression of West African and Ghanian and even African culture. In Ghana the meanings go deeper and further.
- Black: represents spiritual strength, maturity and end of life.
- Red: symbolises blood, and political passion and strength
- Blue: stands for peace, love, and harmony
- Gold, Orange or Yellow: represents wealth, high status, spiritual purity, fertility, beauty and royalty
- Green: means growth, harvest, and renewal
- Pink: denotes femininity, gentle and mild
- White: symbolises purity, cleansing rites, and festive occasions
- Purple or Maroon: represents Mother Earth, healing, femininity and protection from evil
Gold is a colour that truly resonates with Ghanaians. It can be interchanged with yellow or orange and it is usually the dominant colour theme found in most Kente designs and is one of the four colours that features in the national flag. Other widely used Kente colours are red, green and blue.
The colours depending on how they have been placed together can contain a story or meaning. Most of the original Kente designs and patterns are named and the meanings are recognisable by locals in Ghana. They will then choose to wear a particular design because of the meanings.
As a Ghanaian I am proud of Kente and its origins, Kente is an important print for its representation of African culture that features in Cultureville collections. Shop the designs at www.cultureville.co.uk
Wriiten By: Francisca Ayree
Fran is the e-commerce manager at Cultureville. She is passionate about African clothing and jewellery and specialises in accessories.