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What is the Meaning Behind Kente Colors on African Print Fabrics?


African Print

With African print fabrics continuing to make a splash on the fashion world, it might be interesting to know the cultural significance that is attached to these African print fabrics . One of these fabrics with unique historical and cultural ties is the Kente cloth. When you look at this beautiful and colorful African fabric, you may not realize that each color has a specific meaning.

Therefore, before you pick your next Kente cloth, here is a quick lesson about what the colors mean and how they tie back to the African culture.

Connection With Africa

The first thing to note is that this cloth often reflects a deeper connection between the wisdom of the African culture and the struggle to attain knowledge for oneself. When you see classes graduating from college and high school, many young African Americans connect with their culture by wearing Kente cloth stoles. How did this cloth get connected with education?

In the United States during the Civil Rights movement, African Americans began to associate Kente cloth with black politics and the dignity of their heritage. Later, this cloth was adopted by the hip-hop community. In the 1990s, the Kente Commencement Ceremony was adopted at one university, meant to acknowledge the historical and personal struggles of these African American students to achieve a baccalaureate degree from college. Today, its ties with education remind students of the struggles that came before them, which allow them to build upon that foundation.

What Do the Colors Mean?

Kente is meaningful, because every aspect of this cloth is meant to represent communication and carries a unique symbolism. The gold color equals status/serenity. The yellow color represents fertility. The green color communicates renewal. The blue color ties to the spiritual aspect, representing pure spirit and harmony. Red is the color of passion within the cloth. Finally, the black color represents the union with ancestors and definitive spiritual awareness.

Every aspect of this cloth is connecting with a deeper history. Each band of Kente cloth is assembled using panels with alternating designs. The patchwork appearance is complex interplay of the warp and weft, thus creating a beautiful and rich pattern into the Kente cloth.

Additionally, each weaver gives a name to their Kente cloth, reflecting clan, social status, or sexuality. Proverbs can also be reflected in the design of this African print fabric. For instance, owu nhye da, which means death has no fixed date, is a proverb meant to encourage living right because death could come and leave no time for repentance. Other expressive and personal Kente meanings come out of the combinations of various warp and weft designs.

The History of Kente Cloth

According to the history of textile production related to the beginning of this cloth, Kente cloth emerged from the Asante, a tribe that is located in what is now known as Ghana. Chief Akenten, whose name is now associated with the cloth, commissioned its creation to represent the royal ritual attire. Originally, it was made of raffia fibers but as it was associated with Ashanti royalty, then the cloth began to be made of silk that entered the country through the trans-Saharan trade route that stretched through Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

What is interesting is that this cloth used to be only made by men , as women’s menstrual cycles were seen as interfering with its production. Men would wear the cloth wrapped over their shoulders, similar to a Roman toga and women would wear it in two pieces, similar to an ankle-length dress with a shawl. The shawl was also could serve as a baby sling.

Asante mythology states that the great trickster Ananse the Spider spun an intricate web in the jungle. When Nan Koragu and Nana Ameyaw, two brothers who were also weavers, saw the web and admired its beauty. They studied this incredible web and used it as the inspiration of Kente cloth with its beautiful patterns and colors.

Today, individuals use Kente cloth to connect their cultural past with their present and future. It is about understanding where you came from and building on that historical and cultural foundation. African print fabrics, including Kente cloth, have allowed individuals throughout the world to connect to their cultural roots and express their fashion choices in a unique way.

Our knowledgeable team can help you find the right Kente cloth to reflect your personal journey. Contact us today to learn more about the options available.

With 20 years of experience in the African fabrics market, AKN Fabrics guarantees you the best product, selection, price and overall service. We are specialists in the finest fabrics from Holland, London, African Gambia, West Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and India. We specialize in Jacquards, hand embroidery, silks, seersuckers, cottons, quilting fabrics various other West African fabrics.


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