Kente Cloth Kente Fabric

Exploring the Kente Tradition: From the Asante Empire to Now

The Asante Empire was a precolonial state that flourished in West Africa during the 17th century. This remarkable empire, also referred to as the Ashanti Empire, had its roots firmly planted in what we now recognize as Ghana. Within its borders, the Ashanti or Asante people, belonging to the Akan-speaking community, formed a distinct ethnic subgroup. What made this empire fascinating was its intricate composition of small chiefdoms, each playing a vital role in shaping the empire's cultural fabric and political structure. The Asante Empire stands as a testament to the rich heritage of West Africa, where the fusion of diverse chiefdoms under the Ashanti or Asante banner created a remarkable tapestry of history, culture, and societal dynamics. 

Men traditionally wear Kente wrapped over their shoulders in the style of a Roman toga while women wear it in two pieces, an ankle-length dress and a shawl that could double as a baby sling.

Kente cloth was born in the Asante Empire. The cloth was worn by Kings, Queens, and important figures of state in Ghana's society during ceremonial events and special occasions. Each Ashanti king would create a new Kente design after close consultation with master weavers during his reign. This new Kente design had to be chosen with great care because its pattern and symbolic meaning would always be associated with this particular king. The Kente cloth received its name from the term "kenten," which means "basket," because of the cloth's woven design. Each Kente pattern was unique and had its own name. Weavers used vibrant colors and complex designs to portray the cloth's profound philosophical meaning. Kente cloths came to represent the history, philosophy, ethics, and moral values of Ghanaian culture. 

Kente cloths are worn in the United States as a part of church celebrations and school graduation ceremonies; for Juneteenth, Kwanzaa, and other holidays; and as a means of connecting African Americans to their African origins.

When graduation season arrives, thousands of college students proudly walk across commencement stages, proudly showcasing Kente cloth over their gowns. This annual tradition serves as a powerful connection, bridging the wisdom of Africa's rich heritage before the Middle Passage with the enduring quest for self-awareness within the Black Diaspora. Through the act of wearing this vibrant garment, students not only celebrate their academic achievements but also honor the profound legacy that shapes their identity and experiences. It is a reminder of resilience, strength, and the unwavering pursuit of knowledge that defines the Black community's journey throughout history.



"The History and Significance of Kente Cloth in the Black Diaspora"  by James Padilioni Jr

"Kente History" Baylor University

"Ashanti Empire/Asante Kingdom (18th to LAte 19th Century)" Maria Quinta

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