Wearing the Kente
The Kente is a Ghanaian textile fabric. It is a type of silk and cotton fabric, made of interwoven cloth strips.
The name, Kente, came from the word ‘Kenten” which means “basket” in the Asante dialect of the Akan language, referencing its basket-like pattern. In Ghana, the Akan ethnic group also refers to Kente as ‘nwentoma’ meaning “woven cloth”. The kente fabric was worn in a toga-like fashion by royalty among ethnic groups like the Ashanti and Ewe. In modern-day Ghana, wearing of kente cloth has become widespread to commemorate special occasions.
Kente production can be classified into three namely kente cloth, made by traditional weavers; kente print, produced by brands like Akosombo Textile Ltd.; and mass-produced kente pattern typically produced in China for westerners.
The rich sets of different colours come with a symbolic meaning. For example, black, the most significant and incorporated color of Kente, represents spiritual strength and maturity. Red symbolizes blood, and political passion and strength. Blue stands for peace, love and harmony. Gold or yellow represents wealth and royalty. Others are green, symbolizing growth and energy, and white, representing goodness or victory.
Of emphasis is the color yellow in the Kente cloth, associating it with the earth’s generosity. The yellow color is strongly represented in the kente, because the king, who wears it during public gatherings, embodies all these virtues: gold, royalty, wealth high status, glory and spiritual purity.
It is believed that the use of the kente strip as graduation stole began at West Chester University in 1993. High school or college student qualifies to wear a kente stole at their graduation but the display should hold a deep, personal significance for the wearer. The kente stole is a symbol of achievement and overcoming hardship. It pays homage to ancestors’ sacrifices, reunites African Americans with Africa, and asserts their hope and confidence in the future.
Today and globally, the kente material and pattern is widely-acknowledged for its beauty and peculiarity, especially for its connection to the African roots.