The Meaning Behind Kente Cloth/ What's Kente

Kente cloth is a highly recognized fabric of Africans. It originated from the word "kente" which means basket and this is because the cloth is similar to a woven designed basket. This appealing vivid multicolored fabric was originated from the Ashanti people of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.


  This handwoven kente fabric has been developed since the 17th century and derived from Akan weaving techniques. It is also known as nwentoma or woven cloth and is made of interwoven cloth strip of cotton, rayon fabric or silk. Varieties of woven techniques are used to create intricate patterns. It was first offered as a present to the Asantehene or the king as it has a unique pattern and high fabric quality. It was originally clothes for nobles and kings and is considered royal and sacred.


Each color and patterns represent different traditional meanings and it is an important thing to remember in kente weaving. The following is the kente cloth meaning of symbols or patterns and colors.


White - a spiritual and holy character for this is the color of purity, peace, innocence, and spirituality. Kente weaving often uses a small number of white colors.
Yellow - the golden color, it represents wealth, royalty, glory and high power.
Black - the color of darkness and mysteries. Often used in purification ceremonies and initiations.
Blue - symbolizes humility, wisdom, and patience.
Green - for life, harmony, and growth.
Grey or Brown - for healing
Pink or Purple - femininity
Red - for sacrificial rites
Silver - also for purity and joy.


For the commonly used pattern shapes of kente cloth:


Square - the four sides indicate the connection between the earth and the universe. It is also related to creation so this pattern is mostly used by females for they give life and the indication of matrilineal beliefs of the Akan society.
Triangle - the side symbolizes family and life and the base for existence and birth which as a whole represents the completeness of a man's life.
Diamond - worn by kings that illustrates his acts as a king and as man.
Circle - the infinite pattern, it portrays the community of men and the universe.
Cross - cardinal points, water and fire, the breath of life.