HEADLINE: Ghanaian weavers promote use of Kente cloth
BYLINE: Paul Ndiho
One of Ghana’s best known products is Kente, a woven cloth most often associated with wealth and cultural sophistication. The colorful fabric dates back centuries and is revered for both its beauty and symbolic significance.
Kente cloth is among Arica’s best known fabrics. The ceremonial cloth is identified by its dazzling, multicolored patterns of bright colors, geometric shapes and bold designs. Strips of the fabric are hand-woven on a loom and then sewn together forming large pieces of cloth.
At a workshop in southern Ghana, Owusu Fordjour is getting his materials and tools ready for weaving.
“I am just wrapping the yarns that I bought from the store and this is the first stage of kente weaving. And the reason why I am doing this is that I would like to combine all the yarns and to know the type of design that I will make.”
Kente is traditionally woven primarily by men. Fordjour has been weaving for nearly three decades and learned the technique from his father. In 2003, he and some of his friends including shopkeeper Atta Pokua formed the Bonwire Best Kente Weavers and Sellers Association to help promote their work,.
“I have been selling Kente for a long time, my grandmother started this business and left it to my mother and then I took over from my mother.”
Traditionally, Kente was worn by royalty and other dignitaries to mark special occasions. Today people across the country wear the fabric and Kente has been adopted as Ghana’s national dress.
Kente is very expensive. So textile manufacturers are selling cheaper, printed versions of the cloth that are less durable. It is often used to make clothes, souvenirs and accessories that are popular with tourists.
Charles Frimpong, a textiles expert at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, says factory-made Kente threatens the rich history of the fabric.
“Items like footwear, earrings, bags, these were not original uses for Kente and so the printed kente has in a large measure come to reduce the importance and reverence in which Kente was.”
For decades, Kente has preserved an integral part of Ghanaian culture and provided weavers and others a source of income and pride.