The Ashanti Empire was a pre-colonial African state that emerged in the 17th century. The Ashanti are especially known for two types of cloth: printed Adinkra and woven Kente. The visual presentations printed on the fabrics represent various political messages communicated by colors, symbols, and how the fashion is worn.
Adinkra means farewell and was originally worn during funeral ceremonies. Black designs were stamped onto black or russet colored fabric with particular colors used for mourning:
1 Brown= Kuntukuni
2 Red= Kobene
The cloth, originally made from Cassava tubers, is now made out of Calabash rinds. The Adinkra fabric served initially as the exclusive property of the King or Asantehene. The cloth now worn by all is still constantly adapting to economic conditions and fashions.
The Kente cloth was worn on ceremonial and festive occasions during the mid-19th century. Kente is composed of narrow strips of hand weaved material sewn together to form a rectangle. The cloth, predominantly woven by men, is double-sided with the design wove into the cloth. The Kente cloth was a way to identify a person’s origin and status. The colorful motifs are named and communicate messages to those who are able to read them:
1 Gold= wealth
2 Yellow= vitality
3 Green= renewal
4 Blue= spiritual purity
In Ancient times the royal family could only utilize gold colored Kente. However, to this day no Ashanti will wear the royal cloth in the Asantehene in his presence. The King is always expected to have the best collection of Kente and Adinkra in the world, from which to choose. The Asante and Ewe traditions create forms of Kente that are impossible to replicate.