El Anatsui’s new exhibit has got us thinking and Kente cloth. As a studio that pours so much love into our textiles, we can’t help but admire the complexity and inherit spirituality of Kente cloth. At it’s most basic level- Kente cloth is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips. But to Ghana’s people- it’s much, much more. Steeped in symbolism and meaning, it is an integral part of Ghana’s culture and national pride. The art of weaving Kente cloth is often passed from generation to generation. The numerous patterns and motifs all have distinct names and meanings attached to them. (We like the Emaa Da pattern, which symbolizes novel creativity and knowledge from experience).
In addition to the motifs having meaning, each color symbolizes something as well. For example, grey, associated with ash, symbolizes healing and would be worn for cleansing rituals.
Even the supposed origin of the technique has a kind of poetic symbolism. Legend has it that Kente cloth was first made by two hunters in a forest who happened upon a spider making its web. The two men stood and watched the spider intently for two whole days before they returned home with the secrets their small friend had taught them. They implemented the stripweaving technique into their textiles and thus Kente cloth was born!
While the majority of Kente cloth weavers are men, there are women active in the textile industry in Ghana. Our industry favorite is probably Dzidefo Women’s Co-Op, a small textile cooperative in Kpando, Ghana.
These young women make delightful toddler’s clothing and personal accessories. The fair trade income generated by their work goes to providing much needed daily essentials. All items are locally designed and printed using authentic traditional patterns and hand-dyed woodblock prints.
In writing this post, I was personally very moved to discover that Dzidefo is a word from the Ewe language meaning, “there is hope.” I think Dzidefo speaks to the power of the female spirit. Despite poverty and other setbacks, these women banded together and built something positive for themselves and their community. Here’s to the beautiful and hardworking women of Ghana!
See their work and hear their story here.