A symbol of Royalty, the Kente cloth has held prominence among the people of Ghana for a very long time. Ghanaians should be grateful to me and my family, the Ananses, for gifting them with such a great national treasure. Do you think what I am saying is just noise? (Eyeballs innocent writer) Ask the Asantes. Let them tell you about how Ota Karaban and his friend Kwaku Ameyaw from the town of Bonwire both became my apprentices and learnt the art of weaving and by that, eventually introduced the first original “Nwentoma” now known as Kente.
Naa Kohwia’s 16th birthday was fast approaching. As an Ananse, Naa’s birthday demanded all the splendor and grandeur it could receive. Obviously you know a Prada-wearing-mother like me would throw a ball for her daughter. Let’s just call it an investment, for now. I wasn’t going to pay any kind of party planner like the Cinderella’s and the Snow Whites did to distort my ideas for my daughter’s big day. So I became the planner myself. After all, I am a woman of many gifts! (adjusts self in her seat with a wit about her)
First and foremost (please do pay attention my ladies), you need a fabulously huge venue and what better place than my own mansion. My floors are tiled with marbles from the south of France and the space big enough to accommodate “enough people”. Note this – enough people implies a strategically selected guest list. You can’t just have anybody coming through the doors of your daughter’s 16th birthday party. I mean how?! You need to invite the sons and daughters of the crème dela crème; the town shakers – the policy makers – the money brokers. Yes honey (sips wine).
Next were the decorations. You would need a theme for that. My theme… ooops! I mean my daughters theme was Royalty. I raised my daughter well you know, just like the royal that she is – a member of the Ananse Dynasty. Let me not even dwell too much on the bits and pieces of the party planning. That is another story to be told another day by my personal assistant.
Everything was set and it all balled down to what my daughter would wear for the night. I am a master web weaver. Among my many gifts, The Maker blessed me thus, hence the ability to weave beautiful silk. Therefore my plan was to make for my daughter one of the best silk dresses the whole land of Fairy-tales had ever seen. I set to work with my two new apprentices from a town called Bonwire in the Asante region of Ghana. Karaban and Kwaku seemed particularly excited to learn about the craft of weaving from a specialist like myself. After all, no one from their land knew about the craft and I also kept it top secret. I only allowed them into my glamorous weaving shop because unlike what you think, the Ananses especially myself, can be very understanding and kind sometimes. This was one of those times (and it sure wasn’t going to happen again in a long time).
So we set to work. The loom wept, the silk threads crawled but all in all the work moved forth. In weaving, the warp threads are moved up or down by the shaft. This is achieved because each thread of the warp goes through a heddle on a shaft. When the shaft is raised the heddles are too, and thus the warp threads threaded through the heddles are raised. Heddles can be either equally or unequally distributed on the shafts, depending on the pattern to be woven. In a plain weave or twill, for example, the heddles are equally distributed. That was our method.
The work was done fast and well. I was highly impressed with my two new workers so I decided to part with all the knowledge I knew concerning the art of weaving to them. They observed and listened attentively. These two really meant business. We ended up creating for my daughter a very beautiful outfit fit for a princess – its name, Kente. I came up with that name and we all loved it (as if they had a choice).
Naa Kohwia loved her dress as soon as she saw it. Well, that meant my work was done in the shop. So I decided to leave and attend to other pressing party issues. Let me not even make this sound vague – simply put, the Three Little Pigs were on the list (don’t ask me how) and to think they had demands (rolls eyes)!! Sigh… Well, a good host always moves prepared so I had to go prepare. The gluttons!
Taking a cue from me, Karaban and Kwaku wove a strip of raffia fabric that day which showed an improvement in their skill. Well, they decided to report their discovery to their chief, Nana Bobie, in order to help their towns people use this gift better themselves (everybody loves a success story).
Finally the d – day had arrived. Everyone who was anyone was at the party. I am sure some of you even had your great-great grandparents in attendance (if they met my guest list criteria)… you’ll never know. People know people in these Fairy-tale streets. There was paparazzi everywhere (of course), full valet service, a red carpet reception, basically the whole nine yard. My daughter stepped out looking stunning. Everyone was in awe and of course the “master weaver”, yours truly, was praised. The party officially began after Naa Kohwia made her grand entrance and stole the spot light. To think that wasn’t enough, what happened next left an indelible mark in my mind.
In came (unannounced but I am certainly not complaining) the Asantehene (The Asante Chief). Apparently, Ota Karaban and Kwaku Ameyaw took their skills learnt from me back to their village, improved on their skill so much and created a very beautiful colorful cloth and had decided to call it Kente – after the beauty of the woven outfit for my daughter. It was a sight to behold because the Asantehene was adorned in the full splendor of the cloth coupled with his ancestral golden jewels. Jealousy and Joy filled my heart at the same time. The Asantehene had adopted the Kente cloth as a royal cloth and encouraged its development as a cloth of prestige reserved for special occasions and royalty. That is when I knew I, Mrs. Ama “Okonori Yaa” Ananse, had landed. My two former apprentices had come all the way back with the Asantehene just to thank me and recognize me as the originator of the sacred art of Kente weaving (well I accepted in full pompousness). All I will add is: that was the cherry on top to make my daughter’s day a very memorable one for a very long long happily ever after.
The morale of the story is – if you do things from the kindness of your heart, this same kindness boomerang’s back to you in the form of eternal gratitude. That is the best gift anyone can receive in life.
Anyway, I do have to end here for today my dears. Hunger knocks on the door of the Ananse home and I as the lady of the house must answer this call. Fufu and Akrantie must be the ones behind our door.
Love your neighbor as yourself and I will see you guys when I get back from my summer vacation in three weeks or less. Kisses…!!!
A fabulous Sister Ama in her Kente peplum dress and Louboutin heels drinking Le Pin red wine.
A cross-section of the Kente cloth (country of origin – Ghana) … photo credit: true devinity