Monday, October 08, 2007

Kente 101

Ghana is (or it should be!) famous as the home of Kente cloth. It is woven by hand in sharp, bright colors by men of the Ashanti tribe.

The "usual" Kente comes in strips about 4-6 inches wide and five or six feet long. If you want a garment, many strips are sewn together to make a large cloth.

There are tons of patterns and each one means something, e.g. "the extended family is a strong force" or "God's Eyebrow" (the ashanti description of a rainbow).

Once again, because my sister Judy came to visit, I finally managed to take some (seriously bad) photos of a Kente weaver doing his thing.

In this badly exposed, poorly framed, confusing picture, you can see

a) the long threads used to weave the cloth lengthwise (this goes on for 25 or 30 feet),

b) the weaver waaa-aaay at the back of the pic, and

c) a finished strip on the far right side in front of Ted.

Heading back to where the weaving guy actually sits, for a marginally better picture you can see the "pedals" for his feet.

This is a complicated set of thingamajigs that the guy manipulates with his feet and toes to keep tension, switch layers, and who knows what kind of cool stuff that one could only understand after much practice and many botched practice cloths.

You can just barely make out the pattern of the cloth he is weaving if you click it bigger and look between his hands.

For the 50th Anniversary celebration, we bought this Kente strip from the guy down the street...

It's at least twice this long, but I couldn't get the whole thing in the picture and still let you see the details.

The fabric is good sturdy cotton-type cloth. Fairly tightly woven so you can't see through it.

When we were in the forest up north to visit the sacred monkeys last spring, our Park Ranger Guide had some kente cloth bookmarks available for purchase.

I couldn't decide on one, so I bought seven. ;-)

Here's a few of them close up...

and here's the whole collection...

And that's your crash course in Kente cloth.