Kente Ghanaian textile is from Ghana, a country located in West Africa. Kente is a cloth worn by royalty. It is hand woven just like the Aso-oke (Nigerian textile) in wooden looms and is of very high worth. It comes in a variety of patterns, colours and designs, each of which have different meanings.
According to Ghanaian mythology, Kente textile was first made when two friends watched how a spider wove its web. They created the Kente cloth by mimicking the actions of the spiders. It is said that this story, whether true or not, shows the harmony between Ghanaians and Mother Nature.
Looking back in the olden times, the Kente cloth is reserved for the Kings and is associated with royalty and sacredness. Even in recent times, it is worn only during important times. Though the cloth has widespread acceptance and usage it is still held in high esteem among the Akan tribe and the Ghanaians in general.
The Kente cloth is one of the most famous and wanted fabric in the whole of Africa. For the Ghanaians, this represents the history, philosophy, oral literature, religious beliefs, political thought and aesthetic principles of life.
Kente Ghanaian textile
The various colours in the cloth symbolize various aspects of life. Blue symbolizes ‘peace and harmony’. Gold colour mostly worn by kings in ancient times symbolizes ‘royalty, power, esteemed status, spiritual purity and holiness’. This colour is also used by the high priests in ancient times. Pink and purple colours are associated with ‘women’. White and grey colours symbolize ‘sanctification, holiness’ and are mostly used by priests and holy people.
Different patterns have been invented over time for different occasions. Whereby the various patterns have different names and meanings;
The Obaakofoo Mmu Man pattern symbolizes ‘democratic rule’.
Emaa Da stands for ‘novel creativity and knowledge’ from experience.
Sika Fre Mogya symbolizes ‘responsibility to share monetary success with one’s relations’. These showcase the good nature and kind heartedness of the Ghanaian people.
It is said that the former President of the USA (Bill Clinton), wore the Kente cloth over his suit when he visited Ghana in 1998. His wife Hillary Clinton also followed the act! The Kente cloth has acquired worldwide acceptance and its popularity has been on the rise, especially where African population is large.
(Culled from www.kentecloth.net)
Names and Meanings of Different Kente Ghanaian Textile
Below are the Kente Cloth Weave Patterns that you may find on Kente Cloths. These are different from Adinkra (another Ghanian textile) symbols which also carry their own symbolism.
OBI NKYE OBI KWAN MU SI – TO ERR IS HUMAN
Symbol means FORGIVENESS, CONCILIATION, TOLERANCE, PATIENCE, and FAIRNESS
From the maxim: Obi nkye obi kwan mu si.
Literal translation: Sooner or later one would stray into the path of the other.
To err is human, and therefore, one should be conciliatory when one is offended. For sooner or later one may be the offender to the other.
OYOKOMAN NA GYA DA MU – CRISIS IN THE OYOKO NATION
Symbol means INTERNAL CONFLICTS, WARNING AGAINST INTERNAL STRIFE, NEED FOR UNITY IN DIVERSITY, and RECONCILIATION
This name of the Kente Ghanaian Textile commemorates the civil war after the death of Osei Tutu between two factions of the Oyoko royal family.
One faction was headed by Opoku Ware and the other by Dako.
SIKA FRE MOGYA – MONEY ATTRACTS BLOOD RELATIONS
Symbol means FAMILY RELATIONS, RESPONSIBILITY, HARD WORK, and SHARING
From the proverb: Sika fre mogya.
Literal translation: Money attracts blood relations. Or, Wealth strengthens the family bonds.
When one succeeds, one has responsibility to share one’s success with one’s relatives.
In the Akan extended family system, the attraction of financial success to blood relations can sometimes be overwhelming.
AWIA REPUE – RISING SUN
Symbol means PROGRESS, RENEWAL, DEVELOPMENT, WARMTH, VITALITY, and ENERGY
This symbol was used by the Progress Party that ruled Ghana from 1969 to 1972 as its party logo.
APREMO – CANON
Symbol means RESISTANCE AGAINST FOREIGN DOMINATION, SUPERIOR MILITARY STRATEGY
This motif on the Kente Ghanaian Textile represents the superior military strategy with which Akan nations such as the Asante and Akwamu defeated the Europeans who had superior arms.
An Asantehene is said to have remarked: “The white man brought his canon to the bush but the bush was stronger than the canon.”
BABADUA – STRENGTH
Symbol means STRENGTH, TOUGHNESS, RESILIENCY, POWER and SUPERIORITY
The babadua tree was used for building fences and thatch roof frames.
In the past, before an asafo (the militia) went to war, it is said that a pile of babadua would be placed on top of a dug-out and a number of the asafo members stood on the pile. If the pile did not break, that signified that they had enough fighting men.
Babadua was used in constructing barricades during war, because it was particularly strong and resilient. It was also used in house construction.
The use of this motif at the edge of the woven cloth gives tensile strength to the cloth and prevents unravelling or fraying. This is a technical innovation in Akan weaving of the Kente Ghanaian Textile.