The Asante and Ewe peoples of Ghana in West Africa make kente cloth, the best known of all African textiles. Asante kente, such as the cloth shown here, has beautiful, brightly colored geometric patterns. Kente cloth expresses different proverbs or ideas through different designs. More than three hundred different kente designs have been recorded, and each one has its own particular message.
Kente cloth is woven primarily by men and is made up of many strips, each four to eight inches wide. These strips are cut into pieces and sewn together side by side to make a large cloth. The weaver must have the colors and design of the cloth in mind before he begins to weave. He may add variations of his own into a well-known, traditional pattern to make the design a unique one.
Historically, kente was royal cloth, and the king controlled the use and fabrication of it. With time, however, the use of kente became more wide- spread, and non-royal Ghanaians came to wear it on special occasions. When worn, kente is wrapped around the body and draped over the shoulder. The strips of the cloth must be straight, both horizontally and vertically, and the bottom of the cloth should hang at the same length all the way around the wearer’s ankles.