KENTE

Kente Region: Ghana, Togo

Kente Cloth, known in Akan as “nwentoma” and in Ewe as “kete,” is a textile from Ghana and Togo.  Kente comes from the word kenten, which means “basket” in Akan, referencing its basket-like or checkerboard pattern It is crafted from interwoven panels of silk and cotton sewn together. This quintessential Ghanaian fabric is worn by both men and women. Brightly colored, it often features motifs with symbolic, spiritual, or political significance. The color patterns are especially meaningful.

Historically, Kente cloth was worn in a toga-like fashion by royalty among ethnic groups including the Ewe and Ashanti. Over time, its use spread to other tribes such as the Akyem and Fante, native to the Akan people of southern Ghana. Kente cloth has been adopted by the Akan of the Ivory Coast and in many other West African countries.

In modern Ghana, Kente cloth is widely worn to commemorate special occasions. Highly sought-after Kente brands are led by master weavers. Due to its popularity, Kente cloth patterns have inspired Kente print, a mass-produced version typically made in China. This print is popular in the West and is used globally in the design of academic stoles for graduation ceremonies.

With its bright colors and bold, geometric designs, Kente cloth is perhaps the most well-known African fabric. Crafted from interwoven strips of colored cloth, the design originates from the Ghanaian village of Bonwire. According to legend, two brothers, Kurugu and Ameyaw, were inspired by a spider’s web they observed while hunting. They wanted to replicate its beauty. Upon returning home, they created the first Kente cloth using black and white raffia fibers and presented it to the Ashanti king.

Technique(s): Weaving

Region: Ghana, Togo

Culture(s): Ashanti