A Cloth By Any Other Name..

Some places are just known for certain things. For America it could be that we are known for baseball and hot dogs, Paris is heavily associated with the Eiffel tower and love, for Africa? Kente cloth is one things that this continent is known for.

Kente cloth is so readily identified as a part of African culture that besides dashikis this cloth is a big part of black history month in the United States. Also its’ use spans outside of just the month of February seeing that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) all of the country use them as graduation stoles. This cloth originated in Ghana, and started out as a cloth that was exclusive to Ghanaian royalty, and is also referred to as ‘the cloth of kings’. Over time this patterned cloth has become more accessible to a larger demographic of people and not just limited to Ghanaian royalty.

Kente cloth is said to be made using a motion that mimics that of a spider making its web. This method was created by two friend from the Ashanti tribe that were out hunting and ran across a spider making its web and spent two days studying it’s methods. The story of this spider (Ananze) was translated in America and is commonly known as Anansi the Spider, and is a popular children’s book detailing this spider, and bits and pieces of Ashanti culture.

Kente cloth comes in different vibrant colors and patterns that all have unique meanings. Below is a list of the different colors and what they represent:

Black – Maturation, intensified spiritual energy

Blue – Peacefulness, harmony and love

Green – Vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal

Gold – Royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity

Grey – Healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash

Maroon – Mother earth; associated with healing

Pink – Feminine aspects of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red

Purple – Feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women

Red – Political and spiritual moods; bloodshed, sacrificial rites and death

Silver – Serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon

White – Purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions

Yellow – Preciousness, royalty, wealth, and fertility

When we visited the Kente cloth factory there were absolutely no women working to make this cloth. That to me was representative of the ideology that men still have the upperhand when it comes to power and prestige in Ghana. Even just the idea that this cloth, that was once exclusively offered to the ashantehene and used only on special occasions is conceptualized, and and solely made by men is powerful.

~Kristen Phantazia

“Perception is reality, and reality is in my world there is no black and white, only shades of K…”

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