KENTE, THE CLOTH OF KINGS
Legend has it that about 375 years ago two brothers from the Bonwire village, in the ancient Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana, inspired by a spider weaving its web, wove a strip with geometric patterns. The fabric had an infinite variety of colours and geometries. It was called "kente", which means "basket", as it evokes the weave. It was of such beauty that it became "the fabric for the robes of Kings".
Kente is woven in narrow strips of cloth, then sewn together to create drapes for men's garments and now also pieces of cloth for women.
The wood loom, activated with incredible skill and speed from the hands and feet of purely men weavers, has dimensions typical of the portable looms of nomadic African people: it was loaded on beasts of burden and carried beyond deserts, rivers and mountains, spreading the art of weaving.
THE BONWIRE VILLAGE
This precious fabric, designed in the seventeenth century in the village of Bonwire, is one of the most popular fabrics from Africa, and Bonwire (in the Municipal District of Ejisu - Juaben in the Ashanti Region, Ghana) is still the most famous centre for weaving Kente.
GEOMETRIC PATTERNS AND
Each geometric pattern in Kente cloth design holds a specific meaning: a name, a piece of oral literature, philosophical concepts, moral values, a human behavior and attributes of plant and animal life. The collection of different patterns on a single cloth holds another symbolic meaning. Therefore, before becoming a master weaver, a person must learn the meanings of all of the patterns and how to create them.
COLOURS AND MEANINGS
Kente traditional colours are originally taken from the roots and leaves of the trees. According to Ashanti tradition, black represents Africa, red means the blood of their forefathers, yellow represents gold and green means the forest.
Gold is also the royal colour, a symbol of well-being, glory and spiritual purity.
Blue stands for peace, harmony and love.
Brown is the colour of Mother Earth and is associated with healing.
Green represents vegetation, growth and spiritual renewal.
This precious fabric, having so many meanings, is still one of the most significant expressions of the Ghanaian culture. Over the last centuries, the fabric has undergone many changes: the wires, originally made of silk, have been replaced by rayon, silk and cotton, to be accessible to a larger number of people. New models with new meanings are constantly being designed, but many of the original models are still used in weaving. The fine cloths to wear for ceremonies have given way to objects of common use.