Kente cloth is regarded as the most famous of all African textiles and it is produced in massive quantities in Ghana. It is vital for all sorts of African fashion but is one of the world’s most complicated weavings. The production of kente cloth has evolved a great deal since its beginnings in the 12th century, almost a millennium today. This guide is here to help you to understand a little more about how the famous Kente cloth is made, so you can evolve a new appreciation for the beautiful and fashionable fabric.
Methods of Kente Cloth Production
Kente cloth production can be classified into three distinct subcategories: authentic kente cloth, kente print, and kente pattern.
Authentic Kente Cloth Production
Authentic kente cloth production is most associated with the Ashanti region. Most notably, the towns of Bonwire, Sakora Wonoo, Ntonso, Safe, and Adanwomase. Authentic kente cloth is still made by artists, who hand-weave yarn on narrow horizontal wooden looms. The artist will make three-inch-wide strips of cloth that are about six feet long. This is called a ntomaban or a bankuo. Several of these strips are sewn together to make a wider piece of kente cloth that is suitable for both men and women. Authentic kente cloth is usually easy to spot, as rolls of kente cloth are imprinted with a brand to demonstrate its authenticity. The most important and difficult part of creating kente cloth is the weaving, but the colours that are chosen and the patterns chosen all impact the final product and depend on the artist’s own skill. Weavers typically start as apprentices under a master or a company as they develop their skills.
Kente Print and Kente Pattern
Both kente prints and kente patterns are different and distinct from authentic kente cloth because they are not made by using traditional weaving techniques. It’s also not uncommon for kente pattern and kente print fabrics to use different, inauthentic materials. Authentic kente cloth still today uses the historical material of silk, though weavers often use rayon, cotton, and silk blends to make their fabric more affordable and more widely used in Ghanaian fashion.
Kente print and kente pattern are more affordable because they can use artificial fabrics too, as well as the fact that they use mass-production methods – i.e. machines that create the fabrics to replace the arduous process of the artist. Technology means that the traditional laborious and time-consuming kente creation process can be significantly sped up by the use of technology like conveyor belts, robotics, and other automation-focused technology.
The Future of Kente Cloth Production
Kente cloth remains one of the most sort after fabrics in the world and is used by different fashion brands in all corners of the globe. As a result, the demand for kente cloth is expected to continue for many years to come, becoming more and more sought-after as more and more cultures and designers discover this Ghanaian treasure. This opens up possibilities for traditional weavers to continue their craft, as well as modern technologically-facilitated production to increase and become more efficient and widespread. With kente now being used to make not only clothes but bags, sandals, shirts, and other fashion pieces, it is an increasingly iconic product of Ghanaian culture.