Origin and meaning of the use of the luxury African Kente fabric

Kente, known as nwentom in Akan, is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the Akan ethnic group of South Ghana. Kente is made in Akan lands such as Ashanti Kingdom, (Bonwire, Adanwomase, Sakora Wonoo, Ntonso in the Kwabre areas of the Ashanti Region) It is also worn by many other groups who have been influenced by Akans. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means basket in Akan dialect Asante. Akans refer to kente as nwentoma, meaning woven cloth. It is an Akan royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance and was the cloth of kings. Over time, the use of kente became more widespread. However, its importance has remained and it is held in high esteem with Akans.

 

Meanings of the colours in kente cloth

  • Black: maturation, intensified spiritual energy
  • Blue: peacefulness, harmony and love
  • Green: vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
  • Gold: royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
  • Grey: healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
  • Maroon: the colour of mother earth; associated with healing
  • Pink: assoc. with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
  • Purple: assoc. with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
  • Red: political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
  • Silver: serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
  • White: purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • Yellow: preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty

As the colours have meaning, the shapes on kente cloth also have meanings. There are over 350 patterns for Kente Cloths. The patterns are created during the hand weaving process and are determined by the manner in which the threads are intertwined. Below are the meanings of Adinkra symbols that you may find on Kente Cloths. These are different from Kente Cloth Weave Patterns & Meaning.