Ghana has a rich history of incredible textiles (check out these adinkra prints!). Today we’ll look at kente cloth and create an awesome multicultural art project inspired by kente cloth.
With multicultural art projects, I believe it is important for kids to make a connection between the original art and their own art: whether it’s the materials, the process, the meaning. or the purpose. In this case, we will look at the history of kente cloth, discover how they create these woven cloths in Ghana, observe the colors and symbols used, and finally recreate our own version out of painted paper weaving.
Kente (kenten means “basket”) is a hand-woven cloth originally from the Ashanti Kingdom, in Ghana, West Africa. Kente is also made by the Akans in Cote d’Ivoire. The popularity of the colors and patterns of the kente make it one of the most recognizable textiles in Africa. However, most people outside of Ghana do not understand the distinct meaning and symbolism, which has been ingrained in Ghanian culture for hundreds of years. Worn by royalty, the wealthy, or other highly respected people, now it is used by everyone, especially for special occasions such as festivals, ceremonies, and holidays.
Both men’s and women’s clothing can be made of kente cloth, but the clothing is used in different ways. The men usually use the cloth as a “toga” (like ancient Greeks), and the women use the fabric as a wrap-around skirt, blouse, and shawl.
Kente Cloth Symbolism in Colors
- black—strong spiritual energy
- blue—love, fortune, peacefulness, harmony
- green—plants, harvesting, growth, good health
- gold—royalty, wealth, high status, purity
- grey—healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
- maroon/purple— mother earth; associated with healing and protection
- pink—female essence of life; mild, gentle, tender
- red—strong political moods; bloodshed; death
- silver—serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
- white—purification, healing; festive occasions
- yellow—preciousness, beauty, holiness
Amazing Resources about Kente Cloth
Make Your Own Kente Cloth
paint brushes, scissors
poster paints, in the traditional colors
construction paper in different colors
thick white paper
First check out the images of kente cloth. Notice the geometric shapes and bold lines. After the kids learn more about the patterns, they can begin their creations. The first step is to paint stripes and patterns onto their large, white paper.
Next, with black paint, paint some designs on your construction paper. We mainly used stripes, but my daughter threw in a zig-zag:).
These strips will be cut the long way. Also, the kids should fold their white sheet in half when it’s dry (or on day 2 as we did) and cut 1-2 inch slits. Don’t cut all the way to the edges or you’ll cut apart your base:).
Finally it’s time to weave! My kids have done paper weaving projects starting in first grade (age 6-7), and after clear demonstrations have been able to work independently to weave their papers. Check out how pretty they look: