Man's Kente prestige cloth

Asante artist

Not on view

Locally woven silk and cotton kente have been important status markers among the Asante kingdom in present-day Ghana since at least the seventeenth century. These brilliantly colored textiles were meticulously woven on a horizontal, double-headle loom, which produces a narrow band of cloth roughly four inches wide. A completed kente is composed of roughly twenty of these strips sewn together edge-to-edge.

While the first kente cloths were created with blue and white cotton threads, later textiles employed imported silk dyed in vivid colors. The expense of the materials and labor required for kente manufacture made it highly prestigious and the Asante kings exerted tight control over its creation and use. A royal weaving center was established in the seventeenth century on the outskirts of the capital at Kumasi, where the creations of weavers could be inspected and claimed by royal patrons. This exceptional early twentieth century example is closely tied to the court of Asantehene Prempeh II (ca. 1892-1970). The design on each of the twenty-four strips is composed of a broad central red stripe framed on either edge by an identical group of narrow bands of yellow-red-green-red-yellow. This pattern is known as Ammere Oyokoman, one of several variants of the Oyokoman pattern associated with the Oyoko clan of the Asantehene. This connection to the Asante court is further reinforced by the use of rare and valuable silk for the entire composition. Early twentieth century photographs capture similar kente worn by Asantehene Prempeh II in 1935 and Queen mother Nana Kwaadu Yiadom (d. 1945) on an unspecified date. This remarkable work thus speaks to a particular aesthetic championed by high-ranking members of the Asante court in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

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