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Friday, March 18, 2016

Color Meanings Of Ghana's & The Ivory Coast's Kente Cloth (information & videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about the meanings of colors in Ghanaian and Ivory Coast kente cloth. Information about kente cloth and four videos of Ghanaians wearing kente cloth are included in this post. A video of African Americans wearing kente stoles is also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those featured in these videos and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

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GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT KENTE CLOTH
From http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2012/12/kente-cloth-ghanas-ashanti-cultural.html KENTE CLOTH: GHANA`S ASHANTI CULTURAL HERITAGE TO THE WORLD`S FASHION CIVILIZATION
Kwaku Ofori-Ansa, December 3, 2012, Al[l] Rights Reserved

WARNING from the Pancocojams Editor: The tripdownmemorylane.blog contains lots of detailed information and lots of beautiful photographs. However, the comment section of that blog contains a number of explicit entries.

"Kente is a ceremonial cloth hand-woven on a horizontal treadle loom, kente comes in strips measuring about 4 inches wide and sown together into larger pieces of cloth. It comes in variety of colours and different designs. The word "Kente" comes from the word "kenten", which means basket...

According to tradition kente is reserved for special occasion, it is not meant to be used for common place or daily activities or an ordinary wear. It can also be used as special gift item or clothing item used for rites of passage such a child naming, puberty rites invitations, graduations, marriage ceremony, soul washing, burial and ancestral remembrance ceremonies. Kente is used not only for its beauty but also for its symbolic significance. Each of the cloth has a name and a meaning, names and meanings are derived from historical events, individual achievements, proverbs, philosophical concepts, oral literature, moral values, social code of conduct, human behaviour, and certain attributes of plant and animals life…

Quality of yarns used in weaving a particular cloth reflects on the level of prestige associated with the cloth. Silk yarns are usually considered the most prestigious and are therefore the most highly valued. Silk cloth, in the past were reserved for royalty and the wealthy. An average width of a strip is 4 inches. Several strips are carefully arranged and hand-sewn together (some weavers use sewing machines in recent times) to obtain a desired size. Tradition has it that Kente is woven mainly by men. Women, in the past, played a significant role by spinning raw cotton into yarns, dying yarns into desired colors, sewing strips together to form large cloths and assisting in the marketing of the cloths. Today, factory spun yarns have replaced hand-spun yarns, and therefore, the woman's role is mainly in the area of sewing strips together and marketing the cloth...

In its cultural context of use, Kente is more than just a cloth. Like most of Africa's visual art forms, Kente is a visual representation of history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, religious belief, social values and political thought. Originally, its use was reserved for their royalty and limited to special social and sacred functions. When its production increased, it became more accessible to those who could afford to buy it. However, its prestigious status was maintained, and it has continued to be associated with wealth, high social status and cultural sophistication. Today, in spite of the proliferation of both the handwoven and machine printed Kente, the authentic forms of the cloth are still regarded as a symbol of social prestige, nobility and a sense of cultural sophistication"...

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MEANINGS OF COLORS USED IN KENTE CLOTH
From http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2012/12/kente-cloth-ghanas-ashanti-cultural.html KENTE CLOTH: GHANA`S ASHANTI CULTURAL HERITAGE TO THE WORLD`S FASHION CIVILIZATION
Kwaku Ofori-Ansa, December 3, 2012, Al[l] Rights Reserved
Symbolic Meanings of Colors
YELLOW in all its variations is associated with the yoke of the egg, ripe and edible fruits and vegetables and also with the mineral gold. In some spiritual purification rituals mashed yarn is rendered yellow with oil palm and served with eggs. It symbolizes sanctity, preciousness, royalty, wealth, spirituality, vitality and fertility.

PINK is associated with the female essence of life. It is viewed as red rendered mild and gentle, and therefore associated with tenderness, calmness, pleasantness, and sweetness. According to Akan social thought, these attributes are generally considered as essential aspects of the female essence.

RED is associated with blood, sacrificial rites and the shedding of blood. Red-eyed mood means a sense of seriousness, readiness for a serious spiritual or political encounter. Red is therefore used as a symbol of heightened spiritual and political mood, sacrifice and struggle.

BLUE is associated with the blue sky, the abode of the Supreme Creator. it is therefore used in a variety of ways to symbolize spiritual sanctity, good fortune, peacefulness, harmony and love related ideas.

GREEN is associated with vegetation, planting, harvesting and herbal medicine. Tender green leaves are usually used to sprinkle water during purification rituals. It symbolizes growth, vitality, fertility, prosperity, fruitfulness, abundant health and spiritual rejuvenation.

PURPLE is viewed in the same way as maroon. It is considered as earth associated with color used in rituals and healing purposes. It is also associated color used in rituals and healing purposes. It is also associated with feminine aspects of life. Purple cloths are mostly worn by females.

MAROON has a close resemblance to red-brown which is associated with the color of Mother Earth. Red-brown is usually obtained from clay and is therefore associated with healing and the power to repel malevolent spirits.

WHITE derives its symbolism from the white part of the egg and from white clay used in spiritual purification, healing, sanctification rites and festive occasions. In some situations it symbolizes contact with ancestral spirits, deities and other unknown spiritual entities such as ghosts. it is used in combination with black, green or yellow to express notion, spirituality, vitality and balance.

GREY derives its symbolism from ash. Ash is used for healing and spiritual cleansing rituals to re-create spiritual balance when spiritual blemish has occurred. It is also used in rituals for protection against malevolent spirits. Grey is therefore associated with spiritual blemish but also with spiritual cleansing.

SILVER is associated with the moon which represents the female essence of life. Silver ornaments are usually worn by women and are used in the context of spiritual purification, naming ceremonies, marriage ceremonies and other community festivals. it symbolizes serenity, purity and joy.

GOLD derives its significance from the commercial value and social prestige associated with the precious mineral. Gold dust and gold nuggets were used as medium of exchange and for making valuable royal ornaments. It symbolizes royalty, wealth, elegance, high status, supreme quality, glory and spiritual purity.*

BLACK derives its significance from the notion that new things get darker as they mature; and physical aging comes with spiritual maturity. The Akans blacken most of their ritual objects to increase their spiritual potency. Black symbolizes an intensified spiritual energy, communion with the ancestral spirits, antiquity, spiritual maturity and spiritual potency."
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*The flag of Ghana "consists of the Pan-African colours of red, yellow, and green, in horizontal stripes, with a black five-pointed star in the centre of the gold stripe. The Ghanaian flag was the second African flag after the flag of Ethiopia to feature these colours0 Flag of Ghana." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Ghana.

Kente cloth has grown in popularity with African Americans since the 1990s. By far the most popular form of kente cloth purchases are stoles (worn with graduation gowns or worn with choir robes). It's been my experience that certain kente cloth colors and patterns are much more popular or much more available for purchase in the United States than other kente cloth patterns and colors. I don't know the name of that kente cloth pattern, but the red, yellow, green, and black color pattern is the same as the colors of pan-African flag (which is the same as the colors of the Ghanaian national flag.*) In tehe United States, the yellow color in kente cloth is often given as "orange" although I think "orange" may have the same meaning that was given to "gold" in the above list. as "gold" in s" gang. I think that "orange" may gThe yellow color is also frequently consideregiven as orange.

Here's a video that shows this kente cloth pattern/color combination:

J.P. @ the Univ. of Washington Black Graduation Ceremony



DJJPGUNNz, Uploaded on Jun 14, 2011

What a night of jubilation, creativity & music. Of course, my son tries to steal the show as he places the ceremonial Kente Cloth around my neck. (Why did I give him permission to do it? God, what a ham!) My mom was very proud that night. My wife, Victoria, was a trooper throughout this whole journey.
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It's not mandatory for Black Americans to wear kente cloth stoles with their graduation gowns. However, since the 1990s, this custom has become more common, especially for university graduates. I don't believe that the custom of placing a ceremonial kente cloth around the neck of a graduating student at the commencement program is widespread. It's my experience that graduating students either purchase their stole themselves or someone purchases it for them and gives it to them to wear prior to the beginning of the graduation program.
This color pattern in kente cloth stoles that are sold in the United States is so common that some people are suprised to learn that there are other kente cloth color combinations. In particular, kente cloth stoles that made with the predominant colors of pink, or green, or blue, or purple, or maroon (brown?), or grey, or silver are rarely worn by African Americans in the United States. And, in my experience, kente cloth that is black and white is also rarely worn (because it isn't readily available for purchase) by African Americans in the United States.

That said, in that video I noticed a graduating student wearing a kente cloth stole with purple in it. And I also noticed a student wearing a kente cloth stole with blue and white combinations.

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FEATURED VIDEOS OF GHANAIANS WEARING KENTE CLOTH
These examples are presented in chronological order, with the oldest dated examples given first.
Example #1: KING OSEI TUTU II VISITS ATLANTA

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oupipeestudios Uploaded on Apr 6, 2007

Ghana's geat king visit to Atlanta
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selected comments from this video's discussion thread
Elliott Thompson, 2009
"i wanted to see more of the king... it was less than a minute compared to the 7 minute opening! VIDEO MAN????? EDITOR????? DIRECTOR!!! You're fired"!

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Reply
oupipeestudios, 2009
"Sir, it is a privilege to even see the KING in less than one minute! In the old days your behind could have being killed for seeing the KING THAT LONG. Enjoy the veiw because you're in US of A."

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Kalydosos, 2011
"I am not an Ashanti, but I felt great pride watching this thank you."

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tamale26, 2013
"POINT OF CORRECTION: THIS KING IS NOT THE KING OF GHANA. HE IS THE KING OF THE MOST POPULOUS AND RICHEST TRIBE IN GHANA, THE ASANTE TRIBE. GHANA HAS ABOUT 40+ DIFFERENT TRIBES AND THERE ARE MAJOR DIFFERENCES IN CULTURE BETWEEN THESE TRIBES. SOME OF THE OTHER TRIBES HAVE THEIR OWN KING AS WELL, SUCH AS THE YA-NA OF THE DAGOMBA TRIBE, THE YAGBON-WURA OF THE GONJA TRIBE, THE OKYEN-HENE OF THE AKYEMS ETC. GHANA IS A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY OF ABOUT 24 MILLION PEOPLE. VISIT AND LEARN YOUR ROOTS. PEACE"

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isaac owusu ansah, 2015
"that lady with full kente dress dance very well, we akans understand and meaning, drum,s dancing, it,s a massage.onyame nnhyira mu nyinaa."

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Example #2: Kente Dance in Vancouver, part 2 B.C 2009


mansah adom Uploaded on Dec 9, 2009

A Celebration of Kente cloth as a symbol of Ghanaian culture by Ghanaians living in British Columbia, Canada

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Example #3: Nana Adusei Atwenewa Ampem I (Tepahene) Dances @ Asanteman Inaugural Ceremony, Los Angeles - 5/29/11


Victor Boafo, Uploaded on May 31, 2011

Nana Adusei Atwenewa Ampem I (Tepa Omanhene), the representative of Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II was in Los Angeles, CA to swear-in Nana Atta-Yeboah, the newly elected Asantefuo Chief of the South California Asante Cultural Society at an Inaugural Ceremony. The Tepahene graced the 2nd day earmarked for Kente Dance Party with amazing Adowa dance skills as he left the ballroom to end the 2-day event. All Asanteman delegations (Chiefs & Queen Mothers) from North America and Canada joined him as he left the ballroom at the 4-Points Sheraton Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
-snip-
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
Victor Boafo, 2011
"This is really an amazing thing to watch. Culture is so powerful that people without culture or history is said to be lost. Beautiful Asante Culture!!!"

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twerk5954, 2012
"JUST SO YOU KNOW KENTE IS WOVEN not printed on cotton linen blend like most dutch wax are. so Real Kente is Heavy and thick"

twerk5954, 2012
"ah but how do you wear LACE and kente PRINT(DUTCH WAX) when going to see a king wow...lost generation. every ghanian should have at least one authentic Kente cloth in his or her possesion."

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whateveratu2b, 2012
"I agree people should not mix foreign materials with our precious KENTE because it takes away the uniqueness and the pureness of the ASANTE tradition. However, I don't agree that every Ghanaian should own a KENTE because it does not represent the entire country, even though it almost seems so nowadays. KENTE is a creation and pride of the ASANTE group, and it is a rather very valuable and respectable piece of the ASANTE tradition. Therefore, it should be unique to the ASANTE people only."

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William, 2014
"This is what we have. This is us - unadulterated!!! It is heartwarming to know that these ultra rich traditions have been sustained in the face of neo-cultural onslaughts that has been meted on the traditional behavior of Africans. Immerse yourselves brothers and form a chain-linked bond of union and peace through our heritage."

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Example #4: Ahobaa Kese Trailer



Abena Loshmanova, Published on Oct 30, 2015

The Ahobaa Kese Festival, celebrated by the people of Abeadze Dominase in the Central Region of Ghana honours the man who gave up his life in a sacrificial death for the state and Fante people, to rid the community of a terrible plague.

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