AKAN KENTE CLOTHS AND MOTIFS

AKAN CULTURAL SYMBOLS PROJECT
© G. F. Kojo Arthur and Robert Rowe - 1998-2001

AKAN CLOTH     ADINKRA    KENTE    KENTE CLOTHS & MOTIFS     WAX & NONWAX PRINTS    ASAFO FLAGS  AKUNINTAM 

 


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SAMPLES OF AKAN KENTE CLOTHS

ADWIN ASA - ALL MOTIFS HAVE BEEN USED UP

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ADWIN ASA - ALL MOTIFS HAVE BEEN USED UP  

Symbol of CREATIVITY, INGENUITY, MASTERY, INNOVATION, ELEGANCE, ROYALTY, and PERFECTION   

From the expression: Adwin asa.   
Literal translation: All motifs have been used up.   

The cloth length is completely filled with weft floats that hide all the warp threads. The elegance of the cloth lies in the skillful use of several motifs to fill up the cloth length. This level of perfection is associated with the master weaver and the cloth, in the past, was worn by the royalty.

The adwinasa designs are themselves given names and meanings. Examples include Oyokoman, Obi te obi so, and Mmaa ma

 

 

 
OBAAKOFOO MMU MAN - ONE PERSON DOES NOT RULE A NATION

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OBAAKOFOO MMU MAN - ONE PERSON DOES NOT RULE A NATION

Symbol of PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY, WARNING AGAINST DICTATORIAL RULE,  and PLURALITY OF IDEAS   

 

From the maxim:  Obakofo mmu oman.  

Literal translation: One person does not rule a nation.  

The Akan belief is that democratic rule requires consultation, open discussion, consensus building, and coalition formation. The use of the Queenmother as a co-ruler and the Council of state or council of elders are examples of Akan forms of participatory democracy depicted by this cloth.

 

 
OBI NKYE OBI KWAN MU SI - TO ERR IS HUMAN

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OBI NKYE OBI KWAN MU SI - TO ERR IS HUMAN

Symbol of FORGIVENESS, CONCILIATION, TOLERANCE, PATIENCE, and FAIRNESS  

From the maxim: Obi nkye obi kwan mu si.  

Literal translation: Sooner or later one would stray into the path of the other.  

To err is human, and therefore, one should be conciliatory when one is offended. For sooner or later one may be the offender to the other.

 

 

 

EMAA DA - NOVELTY

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EMAA DA - NOVELTY

Symbol of EXPERIENTIAL KNOWLEDGE, CREATIVITY, NOVELTY, and INNOVATION  

 

From the proverb:  Dea emmaa da eno ne dea yennhunu na yennte bi da.  

Literal translation:  What is novel is what we have not seen and heard before.

 

 

OYOKOMAN NA GYA DA MU - CRISIS IN THE OYOKO NATION

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OYOKOMAN NA GYA DA MU - CRISIS IN THE OYOKO NATION

Symbol of INTERNAL CONFLICTS, WARNING AGAINST INTERNAL STRIFE, NEED FOR UNITY IN DIVERSITY, and RECONCILIATION  

This cloth name commemorates the civil war after the death of Osei Tutu between two factions of the Oyoko royal family. One faction was headed by Opoku Ware and the other by Dako.

 

 

 

FATHIA FATA NKRUMAH - FATHIA DESERVES NKRUMAH

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FATHIA FATA NKRUMAH - FATHIA DESERVES NKRUMAH

Symbol of MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS, UNITY, PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY, and WARNING AGAINST DICTATORIAL RULE   

This cloth commemorates the marriage between Kwame Nkrumah and Fathia of Egypt. Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister and President of contemporary Ghana. As sought to promote continental African Unity, he married an Egyptian as a gesture of his desire to unite the Arab North Africa and the black sub-Saharan Africa.   

The marriage was not only between two individuals, but was also a marriage between nations.  

When Nkrumah's government was overthrown by the military in 1966, the cloth's name was changed back to its original name of Obaakofo mmu oman - one person does not rule a nation as a metaphorical comment on his dictatorial rule.   As Nkrumah's legacy is being rehabilitated, it is now more popular to hear people refer to the cloth as Fathia fata Nkrumah.

 

 

 

SIKA FRE MOGYA - MONEY ATTRACTS  BLOOD RELATIONS

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SIKA FRE MOGYA - MONEY  ATTRACTS BLOOD RELATIONS

Symbol of FAMILY RELATIONS, RESPONSIBILITY, HARD WORK, and SHARING  

From the proverb:   Sika fre mogya.  

Literal translation: Money attracts blood relations. Or, Wealth strengthens the family bonds.  

When one succeeds, one has responsibility to share one's success with one's relatives.  

In the Akan extended family system, the attraction of financial success to blood relations can sometimes be overwhelming.

 

 

AWIA REPUE - RISING SUN

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AWIA REPUE - RISING SUN  

Symbol of PROGRESS, RENEWAL, DEVELOPMENT, WARMTH, VITALITY, and ENERGY  

This symbol was used by the Progress Party that ruled Ghana from 1969 to 1972 as its party logo.

 

NSOROMMA  -   STARS

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NSOROMMA  -  STARS  

Symbol of DEPENDENCY ON GOD, HOPE, HIGH EXPECTATION, and POWER OF THE PEOPLE  

From the maxim: Nyankonsoromma na oman wo no na nnye osrane. Or, Oba nyankonsoromma me te Nyame so na mennte me ho so.  

Literal translation: The state belongs to the people and not to the king. The stars represent the people and are contrasted with the moon (osrane), representing the king. The people are always there though kings may come and go.
The second statement translates thus: Like the star son of God, I depend on God not on myself.  

This cloth is an example of kente fufuo ("white" kente) in the Akan color scheme. The other color classifications are kookoo and tuntum.

 

 

SAMPLES OF AKAN KENTE WEFT MOTIFS

ACHIMOTA NSAFOA - ACHIMOTA KEYS

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ACHIMOTA NSAFOA - ACHIMOTA KEYS

Symbol of KNOWLEDGE, UNITY IN DIVERSITY, and HARMONY  

The motif commemorates the Achimota School and College which was opened in 1927. The motif represents the logo of Achimota - the black and white keys of the piano.  One can make  melody on either the black or white keys of the piano, but one can make harmony by playing together both the black and white keys of the piano.  

Achimota, which at one time or the other comprised primary, secondary and university programs, was very much influenced by the Phelp-Stokes Report on Education in Africa and the programs at the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes in the US.

 

 

 

AKOKOBAATAN - MOTHER HEN

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AKOKOBAATAN - MOTHER HEN

Symbol of MOTHERLINESS, PARENTAL CARE, PARENTAL DISCIPLINE, and TENDERNESS  

From the proverbs:  Akoko baatan tia ne ba so a, onku no. Also, Akoko baatan na onim dea ne mma bedi.  

Literal translation: When the hen steps on the feet of her chicken, she does not mean to kill them. That is, parental admonition is not intended to harm the child, but to correct the child.   

Also, The good mother knows what her children will eat. A good mother does not only feed her children food alone, she also feeds them with love, affection, warmth, tenderness and care.

 

 

 

APREMO - CANON

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APREMO - CANON

Symbol of RESISTANCE AGAINST FOREIGN DOMINATION, SUPERIOR MILITARY STRATEGY  

This motif represents  the superior military strategy with which Akan nations such as the Asante and Akwamu defeated the Europeans who had superior arms. An Asantehene is said to have remarked: "The white man brought his canon to the bush but the bush was stronger than the canon."

 

 

 

BABADUA

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BABADUA

Symbol of STRENGTH, TOUGHNESS, RESILIENCY, POWER and SUPERIORITY  

The babadua tree was used for building fences and thatch roof frames.  

In the past, before an asafo (the militia) went to war, it is said that a pile of babadua would be placed on top of a dug-out and a number of the asafo members stood on the pile. If the pile did not break, that signified that they had enough fighting men. Babadua was used in constructing barricades during war, because it was particularly strong and resilient. It was also used in house construction.  

The use of this motif at the edge of the woven cloth gives tensile strength to the cloth and prevents unraveling or fraying. This is a technical innovation in Akan weaving.

 

 

 

AKYEM - SHIELD

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AKYEM - SHIELD

Symbol of BRAVERY AND HEROIC DEEDS, GLORIOUS ACCOMPLISHMENT  

From the proverb: Akyem tete a eka ne mmeramu.   

Literal translation: When a shield wears out, the framework still remains.   
The good deeds of people live after them.

 

 

 

FA HIA KOTWERE AGYEMAN - LEAN YOUR POVERTY ON AGYEMAN

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FA HIA KOTWERE AGYEMAN - LEAN YOUR POVERTY ON AGYEMAN

Some people have interpreted the meaning of this motif in such manner suggesting that there was a particular Asantehene (King of the Asante Empire) called Agyeman who was so benevolent that he took care of the poor. Agyeman is an appellation of every Asantehene, and benevolence is socially expected of every Asantehene Hence, the benevolence of the king is also indicated by the expression esen kese a ogye adidi dodoo - the big pot that feeds many.

This motif rather represents the rise of the bureaucracy in Asante in the 19th century.  Several men chose to serve in the king's court rather than stay poor as village farmers. Very soon some of these bureaucrats in the king's court became rich to the extent that some were vying for stool positions.

There is another kente cloth called wonya wo ho a, wonye dehyee - you may be rich, but you are not a royal, which puts these pretenders to the stool in their proper place.

 

 

NANKA TIRE - PUFF ADDER'S HEAD

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NANKA TIRE - PUFF ADDER'S HEAD

Symbol of EXPLOITATION, BEING OVER-BURDENED WITH WORK  

From the proverb:  Meso annini mentumi a, wose menkofa nanka tire mmo kahyire.    

Literal translation: I cannot even carry the python, yet you are asking me to use the puff adder's head as the carrying pad.

 

 

KYEMFERE - POTSHERD

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KYEMFERE - POTSHERD

Symbol of EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE, SERVICE, ANTIQUITY, TIME, HEIRLOOM, and RARITY  

From the proverb: Kyemfere se odaa ho akye, na onipa a onwene no nso nye den?   

Literal translation: The potsherd claims it has been around from time immemorial; what about the potter who molded it?

 

 

 

AKAN CULTURAL SYMBOLS PROJECT     topbttn.gif (1146 bytes)

AKAN CLOTH     ADINKRA    KENTE    KENTE CLOTH & MOTIFS     WAX & NONWAX PRINTS    ASAFO FLAGS  AKUNINTAM 

Date last revised: 10/14/2009

© G. F. Kojo Arthur and Robert Rowe - 1998-2001