When one considers the many wonders that come from the continent of Africa fabric of brightly colored design comes quickly to mind. Perhaps the most well known African fabric is kente cloth, made by men and women of the Ashanti people in Ghana since the 12th century.
This very representative Africa fabric was originally the cloth of kings. It was royal and considered so sacred that even the kings reserved its wear for the very most special of occasions. Not your ordinary cloth, kente cloth is made by interweaving strips of traditionally woven cloth, using the strips of cloth much like a basket weaver would use grasses, reeds, and wood.
Cotton is the traditional fiber used to make this noble Africa cloth although modern weavers sometimes incorporate materials available today, such as silk, rayon, and other synthetics, even though these fibers weren’t available in 12th century Africa. The two-part process to make this striking textile hasn’t changed much over time.
The first step to making this stunning Africa fabric involves spinning cotton into yarn and dyeing it before winding it onto bobbins. This part of the process is traditionally performed by Ashanti women.
The next step involves the men, who use the yarn to make long, narrow strips of cloth for weaving this highly decorative Africa fabric. Using strips of cloth that are usually between three and five inches wide and five to six feet long, Ashanti men create the magnificent patterns and designs that make this such a distinctive-looking textile.
No longer reserved for royal wear, strips of this lovely Africa fabric are sewn together to make cloth worn by anybody in Ghana today. Each cloth is a unique design, with specific colors chosen for their symbolic meaning. Each kente cloth is given a name to which a great deal of meaning is attached.
The Ghanan government presented the largest kente cloth known to exist to the United Nations, when the country became a member in 1960. That cloth measures 12 feet wide and is 20 feet long. The name of this noble Africa fabric is “tikoro nko agyina,” which means, “one head does not constitute a council.” There is often a great deal of wisdom woven into these highly respected cloths.