Materials & Techniques
Among the Asante, kente is a prestigious cloth that has traditionally been worn by kings and chiefs. Traditionally only male weavers created kente, but women have entered the field more recently. Kente consists of multiple woven strips. Each strip is created in a continuous band, four to eight inches wide. These strips are cut to be the desired length and sewn together into a single cloth.
To weave, one must have two sets of string—the warp and the weft—interlacing at right angles. The lengthwise strings make up the warp. A kente weaver sits facing a narrow wooden loom with the warp stretched taut several feet in front of his or her position. Pieces of wood called heddles are operated by the weaver’s feet and keep the warp strings untangled. While most kente is woven on double-heddle looms, the most complex and intricate patterns require a third set of heddles. Thread bundled around pieces of wood act as the weaver’s shuttle. The weft is created by passing the shuttles over and under the warp. The repeated process of bringing the different colored wefts across the warp is what ultimately creates each strip of kente cloth. Several individual strips are sewn edge to edge to create a single colorful garment.
Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 294-295.
Roslyn Walker, The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana, Label text, 2018.
- The African American Intellectual History Society
Learn more about the cultural significance of kente cloth for the African diaspora.