Kente Cloth

Asante (Ghanaian)
mid 20th century
Cotton and silk or rayon
Work : 10 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 4 1/2 in. (3.1 x 1.9 m)
Credit Line
Gift of Bruce Haight
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The Asante (sometimes also spelled Ashanti) are a sub-group of the larger Akan ethnic group that is found in West Africa, as well as in diaspora communities throughout the Americas and Caribbean. From the 1670s to the 1890s, the Asante Kingdom was a major political and economic power in West Africa, controlling a territory that was rich in gold, ivory, hardwoods and cocoa. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Asante Kingdom engaged in diplomatic and trade relations with the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and Portugal, along with several other African states. The Asante successfully resisted multiple attempts by Great Britain to colonize its territory in the 19th century before finally succumbing to Britain’s military might in 1896. The Asante lands and people were controlled by the British from 1896 to 1957 in what was known as the Gold Coast colony. British rule of the Gold Coast ended in 1957 when the modern country of Ghana was established. The Asante king was reinstated as titular head of the Asante people, and the Asante Kingdom was incorporated into Ghana as a union state. Kente cloth has long been a symbol of Asante culture and identity. It is made from narrow textile strips that are sewn together along their edges to create large rectangular cloths that can be fashioned into clothing for both men and women. The colors and woven designs in each textile strip have symbolic meanings and represent qualities and values that are admired in Asante culture.

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