HISTORY OF KENTE
Kente can be traced to cloth weaving skills in Africa as far back to 3000BC. It is believed that two friends from a town in Ghana known as Bonwire , in the Ashanti kingdom ( a popular town in Kente weaving production in Ghana) learnt the art of weaving from a spider they chanced upon weaving its web. Later, they tried their hands on it by weaving a raffia fabric using the pattern they saw the spider use. It turned out beautifully. They then informed the chief of their town, Nana Bobie who also found it worthy of telling the paramount chief of the Ashantis (the Asantehene at that time) about the beautifully designed fabric woven by two of his townsmen. The Asantehene was fascinated when he saw it. So intrigued by the woven fabric, he decided to adopt the fabrics for all of the Ashantis to be used for special events like grand durbars, festivals, funerals, naming ceremonies, marriage ceremonies etc.
As time moved on, production improved. Many more designs and colours of the Kente fabric were produced. Currently, many towns are into Kente production but Bonwire is known as the town where Kente originated from. Bonwire is located 18km off the Kumasi –Mampong road. Most of the settlers are Kente weavers. It is a very lucrative job.
There are many types of Kente patterns. All of them have unique names assigned them with their meanings. Very interesting names. Some of the names are: “Fathia fata Nkrumah” ( Fathia befits Nkrumah- the wife of the first President of Ghana suits him well),”Obaakofuo mmu oman” (One person does not rule a nation), “Sika futro” (Gold dust),” Abusua ye dom” ( The extended family is a force), “Wo furo dua pa a yepia wo” ( One who climbs a tree worth climbing gets the help deserved),” Nyankonton” (Rainbow). These names usually go with the design patterns created in the Kente cloths.
Originally, the use of the Kente cloth was reserved for Ashanti royalty and limited to special social functions. Even as production has increased and Kente has become more accessible to those outside the royalty court, it continues to be associated with wealth, high social status and cultural sophistication.
Follow us next time on our next feature on Adinkra symbols and their meaning. Some Kente cloths have Adinkra symbols in them. Let’s learn about them.