Kente Cloth

Originally worn by African royalty, kente cloth is a luxurious fabric that comes with a rich heritage. Kente is composed of narrow bands of handwoven cloth — generally in silk and cotton — sewn together to make an intricately patterned fabric.

Photo courtesy of Njambi Ndiba.

It is believed that kente was developed by the Ashanti people of Ghana in the 17th century. The story goes that two brothers discovered the cloth when they were on a hunting expedition and spied a giant spider weaving her web. Amazed by the spider’s skill, they imitated its weaving to create their own cloth, which they then presented to the king. He was so impressed that he appointed them his royal tailors.

Photo courtesy of Kuwala.

The name kente is said to combine two actions of the weaving process: “ke” (open), and “te” (press). Another theory is that the name comes from the Fante word for “basket”.

President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, wearing traditional kente during the innauguration ceremony at Independence Square in Accra in 2017.

Whatever its origins, though, kente is a fabric loaded with meaning. Every color in a piece of kente cloth carries its own symbolism, from blue, denoting peacefulness and love, to gold, which symbolizes royalty, wealth and spiritual purity. These days, it is worn as a symbol of African pride, and it’s a popular choice for ceremonies: for example, many African Americans wear kente stoles for graduation. The fabric has also appeared on the big screen, featuring in the Black Panther movie.

Here at Maakola, we’ve used kente fabric in our Golden Rib Coat, a luxury piece in cream and gold.

T'Challa wearing a Kente scarf in Black Panther movie.

How to care for Kente

Care for Kente gently to make its fibers and colour last. Simply hand wash with lukewarm water, and iron it inside out at a maximum temperature of 110°C.

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