Writer : Teiko Nartey – Khama
Originating from the word “kenten”, which in the Akan dialect of Ghana, means “basket”. The Kente cloth, which has existed since the 11th century, is no ordinary cloth. The luxurious cloth, which was once solely don by the Kings of Ashanti, is a status symbol of wealth and identity. Made from cotton, silk, rayon and metallic thread, the rich and intricate cloth is hand woven and the method of producing it is called strip weaving. It comes in many beautiful and colorful designs. The beautiful patterns is the hallmark of Kente. Some names of Kente are; Obi nkye obi Kwan mu si (To err is human), Sika fre mogya(Money attracts blood relations), Obaakofo mmu man (one person does not rule a nation) and many others.
In recent times, Kente is worn by anyone who can afford it since it is very expensive. However, there is still a vast difference in what the Ashanti Kings wear and what is produced on the market. It is worn for special milestones like traditional marriage ceremonies, naming ceremonies, weddings, and other important social functions. More recently, Kente Academic stoles have become popular during academic graduations and some award ceremonies like the Queen’s Commonwealth Awards mostly worn by Africans and the diaspora in the form of a scarf – like garment worn over the shoulders.
Perhaps, the embrace of the Kente by African Americans “owning and walking” in the luxury,beauty, and wonder of the cloth – speaking to how they view themselves despite been segregated and continuously discriminated against, is what led to the Democrats of the United States Parliament to put on Kente stoles, observing almost a nine minutes silence in honor of George Floyd and as a way of standing in solidarity with the black community in America.