Kente and Adinkra

Today we learned all about kente cloth and adinkra symbols. Kente cloth originated in Kumasi, the capital of the Asanti people. Kente cloth used to be for royalty. The king and the chiefs used to wear it, but now anyone can wear it. However, the cloth does more than cover the body; it tells a story. Each pattern has a meaning. We learned some of the meanings of the patterns. My favorite was the kente that meant that a man loves a woman. They created this pattern for men in case they were too afraid to say that he loves a woman. The man can buy the kente, give it to her, and walk away without saying a word. Even though there are no words exchanged, the woman will know exactly what the man intended to say. There were so many patterns representing power, family, etc. The meanings seemed endless.

Browsing through a Kente store
Learning to Weave

After we learned about the patters, we had the chance to observe some weavers creating the cloth. Most weavers were male, which surprised me. Kente weaving is a difficult and respected craft. Men and women are both valued in this practice. Once we had seen the weavers, we had the opportunity to try it out for ourselves. We could not perform any patterns, so we simply constructed a single colored kente. It took your entire body to work the weave: your hands, feet, and brain…it can get a bit complicated. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was relaxing to perform the same movements repeatedly. It lets you escape.


Our Adinkra Symbols

We also got to see how adinkra symbols and the dyed ink are made. They take bark from a specific tree and grind it up. After it is ground, they heat it over a fire multiple times until they are left with a smooth consistency. Once you have the ink, you can dip the adinkra symbols into it and place it on your kente.

Teeth and Tongue Symbol

Adinkra symbols have many meanings, just like kente. There are symbols that represent power, love, family, etc. The most prominent symbol that you see all over Ghana is the symbol of God is faithful, but my favorite one was the teeth and tongue symbol. It looks like an open mouth with teeth inside. Our teacher explained that without the tongue, the teeth are useless, and without the teeth so is the tongue. The teeth and tongue symbolizes teamwork. They are only powerful as a team; one without the other is pointless. I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of the kente cloth and adinkra symbols that decorate Ghanaian culture.


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