GHANAIAN KENTE CLOTH EXHIBIT AT THE FORT WAYNE MUSEUM
Happy New Year!
If you are a lover of textiles I hope you had the opportunity to visit the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s exhibit on Ghanaian kente cloth which closed January 8.
Located on what was formerly known as the Gold Coast in West Africa, Ghana is a land of many different languages and cultures. From the 17th century to their defeat at the hands of the British in 1896 the Asante was the most powerful and dominant kingdom in the region. Today independent from Britain since 1960 the creativity of Asante artists continue to define the region with their centuries old weaving tradition.
The Asante strip woven cloth called kente is the most recognizable of all African textiles. Its vibrant colors and geometric designs are more than just aesthetics. There is a direct link between the symbols and their oral tradition. A person who is educated in the meanings of the various designs can “read” the proverbs and historical events woven into the cloth.
The colors used in kente cloth have their own symbolic meanings: Black – maturation, Blue – peacefulness Green – spiritual renewal, Gold – royalty, Grey- healing to name a few.
Originally kente cloth was the cloth of royalty. Each new king would consult with master weavers to develop a new design reflective of his reign. Today kente cloth is exported all over the world and is viewed as a symbol of national pride. Besides apparel, kente designs can also be found on shoes, ties and hats. Several years ago I toured the Batesville Casket Company in Southern Indiana. For the interior of the casket lid along with the traditional, religious and sports team logo designs, were caskets with kente cloth interiors. A search of www.etsy.com for “kente” one can find a “Cat Ball Modern Bed in Orange Kente” among the offerings. A “must have” for the discriminating feline fur child!
Kente cloth is often a focal point in African American history celebrations. The international market demand for kente cloth fuels the African art market and makes it possible for the Ghanaian artisans to make a living.
One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit were the photographs: prominent people and even the dead wearing kente cloth. The photos of people of Africa juxtaposed with people of the United States showing their ethnic pride. It truly is iconic cloth embraced by the world it has impacted socially, politically, economically and spiritually.
Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Wrapped in Pride’s appearance at the FWMoA is held in collaboration with, and the support of, the College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne.
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts a restoration studio located in downtown Fort Wayne. She can be reached at 260-515-9446.