The Kente fabrics is something special
Individually woven together,
it gives information about
those who put it on.
Clothes from Jil Sander or Karl Lagerfeld are very beautiful but in far away Ghana, the black weavers produce clothes that are more beautiful than the aforementioned. One can modify the judgment of the mirror in the "Schneewittchen" fairy-tale to mean that at the opposite side of Western fashion something quite different exists. Woven by hand, with names and the moment or motives of their origins transcribed in them and in Africa, these beautiful fabrics are worn on special occasions – unique specimen from cotton or silk with geometrical designs, their peculiar characters and names.
In the world of clothes, the Kente fabrics with its clear individualistic designs can’t be easily confused. The origin of the names is not very clear up to date. Many people translate it to mean "basket", other say it goes back to a King of the 16th Century.
In Ghana, in West Africa, everybody knows what the term ‘Kente’ stands for. Today the Kente fabric is unknown in Europe, but a profitable export market has not yet been developed for it.
The Bremen Mission (NM) wants to promote this age-old folk art. In the rooms of the NM in Bremen for example, one can see this extraordinary weaving art. Wearing a piece of Kente to the next party, narrating your own interesting story, can’t be offered by Lagerfeld and Sander.
Over 300 different designs
The fabric is made from hand woven stripes to about a hand’s breadth which is later sew together. Typical is the variety of geometrical designs. There are over 300 different designs. At the weaving sites, there are more men than women. At the weaver’s looms both men and women work hand in hand on a contract. Every customer can select his individual fabric.
For a befitting cloth for a man 24 stripes of 2, 70 meters long is needed and that of a woman 14 to 18 stripes of 1, 80 to 2 meters is needed. The weaver has a lot to do so that there is virtually no time for regular meals:
That is why he often has a pot of maize and groundnuts by his side which he chops. Some time or other, the name of a popular cloth is thereby produced whose edges are decorated with a gold and black design. It is simply called "maize and groundnut". Often the names given to the cloth are so complicated that the outsider finds it very difficult to recognize the relationship between the name and the cloth. At times, the cloths have their own special decoration marks.
At other times, the whole cloth is named after an event that took place during the weaving. For example, a modern fabric has been named "Light from Akosombo". It was woven the first time when the reservoir for the Volta Lake was commissioned at Akosombo.
Another cloth is called "GOLD DUST" because a greater part of it is woven in a shining yellow colour. "Wealth strengthens Family Bond" has also been woven of pure silk.
For everyday use there are also plain designs at a seasonal price. For example "Smaller Pepper" or "Six Keys". The naming is very important because the fabrics were not simple clothing for protection against the sun, rain or the cold. There is always a meaning behind it – in most cases it always says something about the use of this article of clothing – be it a man or a woman.
Kente fabrics served and serve mainly in Africa for ceremonial purposes. They are worn on official occasions by chiefs and their entourage, but also during family events like the birth of twins. The new born is wrapped in Kente cloth. If someone dies, his clothes are brought out and observed because they reflect the name, the design and the life of the deceased. Also, the former State President Nkrumah, used Kente a lot when he was outside the shores of Ghana and this has made Kente known world-wide.
The North German Mission Preserves The Tradition
The Kente fabric is a Ghanaian specialty and it is produced mainly in two centers: One is in an area near the University City of Kumasi and the other in the South-Eastern part of Ghana on the border to Togo, very close to the Volta River near Hohoe. Agbozume in the South-Eastern part of Ghana is the biggest reloading point for cloths in West Africa.
The Bremen Mission supports a weaving industry in Gbi Wegbe near Hohoe (Ewe area). Here and in the 1999 established productions place Pagbo near Ho particularly the youth will be trained. The designs and names of the Kente cloths have been passed on orally among the weaver’s families. The elderly know them but there is the danger that they would be lost in Africa.
Just like any other thing in Africa weaving also has its story to tell. It is about the little spin man, Ananse. The little fellow was the one who brought about the art of weaving myth. Formerly when an apprentice has finished his first piece, as a sign of gratefulness he is carried to the outskirts of the village to meet Ananse face to face and is offered a cut or a segment of spider.
The Story Of The Spin Little Man – Ananse
Kwaku Ananse was very angry that there was a lot of fashion among human being. He decided to collect all the wisdom in the world and preserve them for his descendants.
He took a very big clay pot, wandered throughout the whole world with it. He asked human beings and animals the most difficult questions. If he received an intelligent answer, he quickly opened the post and stored in the answer. As he believed that he had collected all the wisdom in the world together, he closed the clay pot and went happily home.
He decided to show the container first to his family and later to hide it from the view of everybody. He then decided to hide it in a very tall tree beyond the reach of everybody. He then tied the post in front of his belly and began to climb the tall tree.
However, all did not go on well. He often fell to the ground, injured himself and became embittered. A hare came by and wanted to help him. "Good evening, Kwaku Ananse", he said, "l have observed you for a long time on how you have fruitlessly tried to get the pot to the tree top. Wouldn’t it be simpler if you tie the container at your back?"
"What are you saying over there?" shouted Kwaku Ananse", I thought I had collected and stored all the wisdom in the world in my pot only to see that there are still intelligent people like me!" With these words he removed the heavy load from his belly and with much force hit it against the tree that the pot broke into thousand pieces spreading over a wide area. "Now the wisdom spread into the whole world", he joked and trudged through the tall grass to his house.