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Wrapped in Pride
The Messages Embodied in Ghana’s Kente and Adinkra Hand Woven Clothes:  A Sampling!

Asante Kente   |   Ewe Kente   |   Adinkra

Asante Kente
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Kente is an Asante ceremonial cloth hand-woven on a horizontal treadle loom. Strips measuring about 4 inches wide are sewn together into larger pieces of cloths. Cloths come in various colors, sizes and designs and are worn during very important social and religious occasions. In a total cultural context, kente is more important than just a cloth. It is a visual representation of history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, moral values, social code of conduct, religious beliefs, political thought and aesthetic principles. The term kente has its roots in the word kenten which means a basket. The first kente weavers used raffia fibers to weave cloths that looked like kenten (a basket); and thus were referred to as kenten ntoma; meaning basket cloth. The original Asante name of the cloth was nsaduaso or nwontoma, meaning "a cloth hand-woven on a loom" and is still used today by Asante weavers and elders. However, the term kente is the most popularly used today, in and outside Ghana. Many variations of narrow-strip cloths, similar to Kente are woven by various ethnic groups in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. Below, we focus on some the Asante Kente cloth. The Asante are one of the Akan peoples who live in parts of Ghana and Cote d'lvoire.

ABUSUA YE DOM
Literally means "the extended family is a force." Among the Akan peoples, the extended family is the foundation of society. Like a military force, members of the family are collectively responsible for the material and spiritual well-being, the physical protection and the social security of all its members. The cloth was designed to celebrate and reinforce such positive attributes of the extended family system. In its many variations and background colors the cloth symbolizes STRONG FAMILY BOND, THE VALUE OF FAMILY UNITY, COLLECTIVE WORK and RESPONSIBILITY and COOPERATION.

   

WOFRO DUA PA A NA YEPIA WO
Literally means "one who climbs a tree worth climbing gets the help deserved." The cloth was designed to express the Akan social thought which maintains that any good individual effort deserves to be supported by the community. When one climbs a good tree that has fruits on it, people around will give him a push, since they know they will enjoy the fruits of his labor. It is a notion that reinforces the importance of aspiring towards a worthy course. Symbolizes ASPIRATION, HOPE, MUTUAL BENEFITS, SHARING and NOBLE DEEDS.

   

TOKU KRA TOMA
Literally means Toku's soul cloth. The cloth is designed and named to commemorate the soul of a warrior Queenmother of that name, who, though was defeated and executed in a battle with Nana Opoku Ware I, the King of the Asante kingdom (1731-1742), was viewed as a courageous woman. It commemorates that historic event and honors the soul of that Queenmother for her bravery. In the past, such a cloth would only be worn by the royalty and people of high rank during very sacred ceremonies in which the spirits of the ancestors are venerated. The cloth symbolizes COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP, HEROIC DEEDS, SELF-SACRIFICE, and SPIRITUAL VITALITY and REBIRTH.

   

SRAFO
Literally means “a member of the militia”. The cloth was designed to celebrate bravery, valor, selflessness, loyalty characteristic of the Asante Kingdom relied on the courage and selflessness of the people’s militia for its defence against external aggression. The cloth symbolizes BRAVERY, VALOR, SLEFLESSNESS, LOYALTY and MILITARY DEFFENCE.

   

SIKA FUTORO
Literally means "gold dust." Before the use of coins and paper as money, gold dust, was used as a medium of exchange among the Akan peoples and was therefore considered as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. The predominant use of intricately textured patterns in yellows, orange and reds replicate the visual characteristics of gold dust. The cloth symbolizes WEALTH, ROYALTY, ELEGANCE, SPIRITUAL PURITY and HONORABLE ACHIEVEMENT

   

KYERETWIE
Literally means "the lion catcher." The cloth was designed to commemorate an incident during the reign of King Kwaku Dua (1838 -1867) who tested the courage of his warriors by ordering them to catch a leopard alive. The appellation, "Kyerekwie" was since appended to the names of some of the Asante Kings whose bravery and leadership qualities were comparable to the courage needed to catch a leopard alive. The black vertical warp stripes represent the black sports in a leopard's fur. In the past, the cloth was worn only by the Asantehene or by other chiefs with his permission. The cloth symbolizes COURAGE, VALOR, EXCEPTIONAL ACHIEVEMENT and INSPIRING LEADERSHIP.

   

KYEME
Was the name of a powerful Paramount Chief. The design was inspired by patterns in a particular imported silk worn only by persons of high social status and was used during special ceremonies. The cloth was specifically designed in tribute to an Asante Paramount Chief called Kyeme who was credited with bravery and strong leadership qualities. In its various versions, the cloth symbolizes BRAVERY, VALOR, POWER, and STRONG LEADERSHIP.

   

AFOAKWA MPOANKRON
Literally means “Nine-tufts of hair.” Traditionally would be used for occasions as such as naming ceremonies, outdooring ceremonies, weddings, purification rites, and post oath-swearing rites during ceremonies. The MPUAKRON “Nine-tufts of hair” motif expresses notions about democratic rule.

   

EMMA DA
A variation of Emma DA known as “ASONAWO AHAHAMONO EMMAA DA” literally meaning “green snake of Asona Family” Asona is the name of one of the seven families of the Akan social system. A family refered to as abusua is a blood-line determined social institution among the Akan people that sometimes determines lines of responsibilities and privileges. Once a member of a family, once is so recognized and treated in accordance with tradition wherever one goes. All the varios Akan people maintain such blood-line relationships.

   

EMAA DA
Literally means "it has not happened before" or "it has no precedence." According to Nana Kwasi Afranie of Bonwire, the Asantehene's chief weaver, the cloth was designed and so named by one of the Asante Kings who was so awed by the uniqueness of the pattern that he remarked "Eyi de emmaa da" meaning, "this one has no precedence." The cloth was therefore reserved for the exclusive use of the King, but its use was later extended to people of high ranks. It is a symbol of CREATIVE INGENUITY, INNOVATION, UNIQUENESS, PERFECTION and EXCEPTIONAL ACHIEVEMENT.



Ewe Kente
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The Ewe kente is distinguished by human, animal and symbolic magnificent patterns woven into the cloth. Their famous weaving villages are Kpetoe, Agbozome, Keta, Afiadenyigba and other places in the Volta Region of the Country.

In fact many collectors regards Ewe textiles as the highest expression of African weaving artistry. Ewe people live around the Volta delta area of south eastern Ghana and across the international border in Togo. According to their local histories some groups reached their homeland in the seventeenth century after a series of migrations from the east, passing through the town of Notse in Togo. Others, around the more northern weaving town of Kpetoe claim an Akan origin from an area towards the coast near Accra. Unlike the Asante they were never a unified political entity with a powerful court, being ruled instead by numerous village chiefs and shrine priests. Perhaps as a consequence of this lack of a centralised royal authority imposing common standards, Ewe weaving is far more diverse than that of the Asante. Although they do supply important regalia to local chiefs, Ewe weavers work primarily for sale through markets and to fill orders from important local men and women. Today Ewe weavers are concentrated around two towns, Kpetoe and Agbozume, with the latter the site of a large cloth market which draws buyers from throughout Ghana as well as neighbouring countries.

Ewe weavers utilise an almost identical form of the narrow-strip loom to that of the Asante, and there is considerable evidence to suggest mutual influence between the weavers of the two traditions, as might be expected from the long history of contacts, both through trade and conquest between their peoples. However Ewe weaving has also been influenced by and exercised an influence on other neighbouring peoples, including the Fon of the Benin Republic and most recently the Yoruba of Nigeria. One particularly interesting and distinctive type of Ewe cloth, sometimes called adanudo, features a rich variety of weft float inlaid pictures, often on a plain silk, rayon, or cotton background. Among the subjects depicted on these cloths are animals such as cows, sheep and horses, human figures, ceremonial stools, hats, trees and flowers, and household objects such as dining forks. More recent examples are often quite realistic, and at least since the 1940s some of the cloths have included written texts. The Ewe weavers also produced many cloths where, as with Asante kente, the main design feature is symmetrically arranged blocks of weft float designs and weft faced stripes across the strips. However despite their superficial similarity, these cloths can generally be distinguished from Asante weaving by the inclusion of figurative designs of the type described above, and by the use of a technique which involves plying together two colours of weft thread before weaving a band, creating a kind of speckled effect. Ewe weavers also produced more simple but still striking cloths using just indigo blue and white stripes and checks, perhaps the legacy of older weaving styles practised before they came into contact with the Asante.

ABUSUA YE DOM
Literally means "the extended family is a force." Among the Akan peoples, the extended family is the foundation of society. Like a military force, members of the family are collectively responsible for the material and spiritual well-being, the physical protection and the social security of all its members. The cloth was designed to celebrate and reinforce such positive attributes of the extended family system. In its many variations and background colors the cloth symbolizes STRONG FAMILY BOND, THE VALUE OF FAMILY UNITY, COLLECTIVE WORK and RESPONSIBILITY and COOPERATION.

   

WOFRO DUA PA A NA YEPIA WO
Literally means "one who climbs a tree worth climbing gets the help deserved." The cloth was designed to express the Akan social thought which maintains that any good individual effort deserves to be supported by the community. When one climbs a good tree that has fruits on it, people around will give him a push, since they know they will enjoy the fruits of his labor. It is a notion that reinforces the importance of aspiring towards a worthy course. Symbolizes ASPIRATION, HOPE, MUTUAL BENEFITS, SHARING and NOBLE DEEDS.

   

TOKU KRA TOMA
Literally means Toku's soul cloth. The cloth is designed and named to commemorate the soul of a warrior Queenmother of that name, who, though was defeated and executed in a battle with Nana Opoku Ware I, the King of the Asante kingdom (1731-1742), was viewed as a courageous woman. It commemorates that historic event and honors the soul of that Queenmother for her bravery. In the past, such a cloth would only be worn by the royalty and people of high rank during very sacred ceremonies in which the spirits of the ancestors are venerated. The cloth symbolizes COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP, HEROIC DEEDS, SELF-SACRIFICE, and SPIRITUAL VITALITY and REBIRTH.

   

SRAFO
Literally means “a member of the militia”. The cloth was designed to celebrate bravery, valor, selflessness, loyalty characteristic of the Asante Kingdom relied on the courage and selflessness of the people’s militia for its defence against external aggression. The cloth symbolizes BRAVERY, VALOR, SLEFLESSNESS, LOYALTY and MILITARY DEFFENCE.

   

SIKA FUTORO
Literally means "gold dust." Before the use of coins and paper as money, gold dust, was used as a medium of exchange among the Akan peoples and was therefore considered as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. The predominant use of intricately textured patterns in yellows, orange and reds replicate the visual characteristics of gold dust. The cloth symbolizes WEALTH, ROYALTY, ELEGANCE, SPIRITUAL PURITY and HONORABLE ACHIEVEMENT



Adinkra
More Info

Adinkra is one of the highly valued hand-printed and hand-embroidered cloths. Its origin is traced to the Asante people of Ghana and the Gyaman people of Cote' d'lvoire (Ivory Coast). However, the production and use of Adinkra have come to be more associated with the Asante people than any other group of people. Around the 19th Century, the Asante people developed their unique art of adinkra printing. Adinkra cloths were made and used exclusively by the royalty and spiritual leaders for very important sacred ceremonies and rituals.
In modern times, however, adinkra cloths are used for a wide range of social activities. In addition to its sacred usage, it is also used to make clothing for such special occasions as festivals, church-going, weddings, naming ceremonies and initiation rites. Today, designers use adinkra symbols in creating a wide range of products including clothing accessories, interior decoration, packages and book covers.
Each of the motifs that make up the corpus of adinkra symbolism has a name and meaning derived either from a proverb, a historical event, human attitude, animal behavior, plant life, forms and shapes of inanimate and man-made objects. These are graphically rendered in stylized geometric shapes. Meanings of motifs may be categorized as follows: Aesthetics, Ethics, Human Relations and Religious concepts. In its totality, adinkra symbolism is a visual representation of social thought relating to the history, philosophy and religious beliefs of the Akan peoples of Ghana and Cote' d'lvoire.

Below are some of the most commonly used symbols, their names, sources of derivation, their literal translations and their symbolic meanings. Names and meanings of the symbols are presented in Twi (the language of the Akan peoples), and translated into English. Symbols are grouped according to the sources of derivation, namely: Creatures. (Animals, Birds and Insects), Celestial Bodies, The Human Body, Man-made objects, Non-figurative shapes and Plant life. Symbols not featured here are on the Adinkra poster which you can purchase. Ordering info is at the end of the home page.

AKOBEN (war horn - symbol of vigilance and wariness )
Akoben is a horn used to sound a battle cry.

   

TAMFOA BEBRE (the enemy will stew in his own juice)
symbol of importance of learning from the past

   

SESA WORUBAN (I change or transform my life)
This symbol combines two separate adinkra symbols, the "Morning Star" which can mean a new start to the day, placed inside the wheel, representing rotation or independent movement.

   

SANKOFA (return and get it)
symbol of importance of learning from the past

   

WOW FORO ADOBE (snake climbing the raffia tree)
Because of its thorns, the raffia tree is a very dangerous challenge to the snake. His ability to climb it is a model of persistence and prudence.

   

ODO NNYEW FIE KWAN (love never loses its way home)
symbol of the power of love

   

NYAME NNWU NA MAWU (God never dies, therefore I cannot die)
This signifies the immortality of man's soul, believed to be a part of God. Because the soul rests with God after death, it cannot die.

   

NYAME BIRIBI WO SORO (God is in the heavens)
A reminder that God's dwelling place is in the heaven, where he can listen to all prayers.

   

NSOROMMA (child of the heavens)
A reminder that God is the father and watches over all people.

   

NKYINKYIM (twistings)
symbol of initiative, dynamism and versatility

   

NKONSONKONSON (chain links)
A reminder to contribute to the community, that in unity lies strength

   

MMUSUYIDEE (that which removes bad luck)
symbol of good furtune and sanctity

   

MATE MASIE (what I hear, I keep)
The implied meaning of the phrase "mate masie" is "I understand". Understanding means wisdom and knowledge, but it also represents the prudence of taking into consideration what another person has said.

   

KINTINKANTAN (puffed up extravagance)

   

HYE WON HYE (that which cannot be burnt)
This symbol gets its meaning from traditional priests that were able to walk on fire without burning their feet, an inspiration to others to endure and overcome difficulties.

   

HWEMUDUA (measuring stick)
This symbol stresses the need to strive for the best quality, whether in production of goods or in human endeavors.

   

GYE NYAME (except for God)
This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is by far the most popular for use in decoration, a reflection on the deeply religious character of the Ghanaian people

   

FUNTUNFUNEFU DENKYEMFUNEFU (siamese crocodiles)
The Siamese crocodiles share one stomach, yet they fight over food. This popular symbol is a remind that infighting and tribalism is harmful to all who engage in it.

   

FIHANKRA (house-compound)
Typical of Akan (Asante) architecture, the communal housing compound has only one entrance and exit.

   

ESE NE TEKREMA (the teeth and the tongue)
The teeth and the tongue play interdependent roles in the mouth. They may come into conflict, but they need to work together.

   

EPA (handcuffs)
symbol of slavery and captivity

   

DWENNIMMEN (ram's horns)

   

DENKYEM (crocodile)
The crocodile lives in the water, yet breathes the air, demonstrating an ability to adapt to circumstances.

   

DAME-DAME (name of a board game)
symbol of intelligence and ingenuity

   

BIN NKA BI (no one should bite the other)
This symbol cautions against provocation and strife.

   

AKOMA NTOSO (inked hearts)
symbol of understanding and agreement

   

AKOMA (the heart )
Patience & tolerance. According to Agbo, when a person is said to "have a heart in his stomach," that person is very tolerant.

   

AKOKONAN (the leg of a hen)
Mercy, nurturing.
The full name of this symbol translates to "The hen treads on her chicks, but she does not kill them." This represents the ideal nature of parents, being both protective and corrective. An exhortation to nurture children, but a warning not to pamper them

   

ADINKRAHENE (chief of adinkra symbols)
This symbol is said to have played an inspiring role in the designing of other symbols. it signifies the importance of playing a leadership role.

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