The Symbolic Meanings of Kente Cloth Designs Among The Asantes and Ewes of Ghana

Kente is one of the famous indigenous cloths of Ghana. The origin of the craft is shared among the Asante ethnic society in the southern part of the Ashanti region and the Ewe ethnic society in the Volta region of Ghana. The times of discovering the art of weaving and the designs among the two groups were simultaneous. While the Asantes believe that they learnt the craft from how grass naturally interlocks, the Ewes claim they learnt the craft from the red and black stripped cobra which is their totem. Whatever be the case, there are interesting patterns and colours of the indigenous cloth that have interesting symbolic meanings that reveal the values, norms and beliefs of the ethnic cultures. It is essential that wearers of this famous cloth know the meaning of the designs and styles so that they can wear them to appropriate occasions.

Asante Kente Names and Designs

There are basically five kente weave patterns on which the various complex and diverse patterns originate. These are Adwin, Akyem, Ahwepan or Hweepan, Nkyeretire or Nkyereano and Faprenu.

• The Adwin kente pattern is a design weave pattern which very beautiful. It is noted for its complex designs hence the name Adwin (skill). It requires dexterity or great skill on the part of the weaver to be able to come out with this weave pattern.

• The Akyem kente pattern is noted for its colourful nature. It was named after the local bird with different coloured feathers called Akyem by the Asantes of Ghana. Due to the diversity in its colours, it is expensive and is worn by the wealthy in the society.

• The Ahwepan or Hweepan kente pattern has no design in it hence the name ‘hwee’ meaning ‘nothing’. It is the easiest of all the weave patterns. No wonder it is woven by amateurs and new apprentices.

• The Nkyeretire or Nkyereano kente pattern has the designs appearing only at the edges (‘tire’or ‘ano’) of the woven cloth with the middle of the cloth with no designs.

• The Faprenu kente pattern has two or double (prenu) warp sheets woven together with one weft sheet. It is very compact, strong and durable. This is why it was worn by important personalities in the indigenous Ghanaian society.

• Kyeretwie (kyere- capture, twie- leopard). This kente weave pattern means one’s ability to capture a live leopard. Due to the fact that it is a very painstaking task as such, this kente pattern is associated with power, might and bravery. Its wearer was viewed as such. Therefore, this kente pattern was reserved and restricted for great chiefs.

• Adwinasa (Adwin- skill, Asa-exhausted). This kente weave pattern means the kente weaver has used or employed all the skills and designs that he knows in the weaving of the cloth and has exhausted all of them. It is a very complex weave pattern which is very expensive. Therefore, important personalities and chiefs were allowed to wear this kente pattern.

• Obo fa, dade fa (partly stone, partly metal). This kente weave pattern is worn for funeral ceremonies. It reminds members of the bereaved family and sympathizers that death is part of man (obo- we are dust) therefore we need to endure the loss of the loved one with a strong inner strength (dade- like metal).

Asante Kente Names and Designs

• Ehianaga (Ehiana-needed, ga- money). It means money is needed in the Ewe tongue. It is a gorgeous type of kente weave among the Ewes. The name implies that to be able to purchase the kente cloth requires a great deal of money. It is worn by the rich and famous in the society.

• Lorlofukpekpe (lorlor- love, fukpekpe- turned into suffering). This kente weave pattern serves as a reminder to the wearer and onlookers that one’s expectations may not always be fulfilled and that one may face disappointment or heartbreak from those he or she loves such as partners, friends, and relatives.

• Afiadeke Mefa o (Afiadeke- Nowhere, Mefa- cool). This kente pattern literally means ‘nowhere is cool’. It advises us that we need not crave for what other have and complain bitterly about our condition. It admonishes us to be content or appreciate who we are, what we have and the conditions that we find ourselves.

• Fiawo Yome (Fiawo- king, Yome- second or next). This kente weave pattern means ‘next to kings or second to royals’. It is a very beautiful and expensive weave pattern. It is worn by important people in the society.

The symbolism of the Kente patterns that have been discussed among the two ethnic cultures is with respect to the main and very popular designs of the indigenous cloth. However, there are other varied designs with captivating symbolic interpretations. Familiarizing oneself with these symbolic connotations of the cloth will deepen the understanding of the culture of these vibrant ethnic societies in Ghana.

Source by Dickson Adom

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