Asanti Kente Cloth in Adanwomase, Ghana

Kente cloth is composed of many strips of narrow cloth. The strips are in hand-woven in several parts of Ghana, including Adanwomase / Adawomase. They are together along the selvedges to form a large, square or rectangular cloth that is traditionally worn wrapped around the body. This hand woven cloth often features colorful geometric motifs with specific meanings.

The Kente Visitor's Centre in Adanwomase provides excellent guided tours for a small fee. Spools and skeins of cotton, rayon, polyester, and metallic thread are imported and sold locally to the weavers by Paul Manu. The thread is wound onto bobbins or spools.

The length of the warp is determined by the size of the Kente cloth being constructed since the woven strip must be long enough to make an entire cloth. The traditional man's cloth is composed of 14 pieces that are 12' long. Warping is done by Steven Akwah, a specialist who walks back and forth, placing the thread around metal stakes in the ground. He has walked thousands of miles in the last few years!

Spools of thread are slipped onto pins on a rack. The threads are crossed over on one end to aid in dressing the loom. When finished, the cross is tied.

The rest of the warp is temporarily tied at intervals to keep it from tangling, then it is wrapped into a bundle, ending with the crossed threads. Harnesses and reeds.

Harnesses with string heddles are made in Adanwomase by wrapping nylon cord around a frame. After wrapping, the tops and bottoms of the heddles are transferred to dowels.

The heddles are then threaded with the warp. Kofi Eric carefully separates the warp in groups, then thread by thread. The cross (formed during warping) keeps them in order. He then passes the warp through the heddles, one by one, holding things in place with his feet.

Ofori A. Isaac then passes 4 threads at a time through the reed, following the order of the heddles. The warp is then grouped and tied to a metal rod that will be tied to the loom.

Then one end of the warp is tied to a weighted sled, while the other placed on the loom, then a few inches are woven.

Warp threads that are used for pattern weaving are selected, then heddles are tied to each one with with strong, black thread. The group of heddles is knotted together at the top and then the knot is suspended from the top of the loom.

All the warp threads pass through one of the two harnesses to create plain woven cloth and then the groups of heddles are raised when needed for weaving specific patterns.

Most Ashanti weavers use short threads for supplementary weft, but the Ewe style of using bobbins is now also popular in Adanwomase. Although it is also unusual to see female weavers in Ghana, one was spotted in Adanwomase!

This young lady is weaving with bobbins in the Ewe style. Most weavers have their looms set up in the old market place. The warp is tied to a weighted sled and pulled towards the loom as needed. Some weavers work in the patio of their home.

Weft is wound onto a bobbin, then the bobbin is placed in a shuttle. Kids learn the craft by carefully observing the process.

Pattern heddles are raised. Supplementary weft is passed through the shed. A piece of notched cane is used to measure the height of the pattern block.

The weaver skillfully selects a group of string heddles, inserts a sword then puts it on edge to create the pattern shed, passes through a supplementary weft, then pulls down one of the heddles with his foot, then beats it down, then passes through the foundation cloth weft.

The strips are then cut apart by the weaver and brought to the specialist who sews them together with zig-zag stitches on a sewing machine.

A short version of The Twenty-first Century Voices of the Ashanti Adinkra and Kente Cloths of Ghana paper that I presented at the 2012 Textile Society of America Thirteenth Biennial Symposium, Textiles and Politics, is included in the Proceedings as a pdf.

See also: Kente Cloth of Ghana, HANDWOVEN, January/February 2011, 32.1: 24.

Links:
Ashanti Kente Weaving in Bonwire, Ghana
Ewe Kente Cloth Weaving in Denu, Ghana
Ashanti Adinkra Making in Ghana
Glass Bead Making in Odumase Krobo, Ghana
Ashanti Glass Bead Making in Daabaa, Ghana 
Ashanti Lost Wax Casting in Krofofrom, Ghana 
Painting and Baskets of Sirigu, Ghana    
Ga Coffins in Teshie, Ghana 

More Links:
Kente DVD
Traditional Fiber Crafts of Japan  
Papermaking in Kurotani, Japan 

Katazome (stencil dying) in Kyoto, Japan 
Shibori in Kyoto, Japan  
Batik of Java and Bali, Indonesia
Ikat Weaving in Bali
Printing in China 
Batik in Cameroon  
Backstrap Woven Ikat in Mexico  
Footloomed Woven Ikat in Mexico  


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Web page, photographs, and text by Carol Ventura.