Ghanian Kente Cloth (Material Memory)

Year: 2007

Origin: Bonwire, Accra

Donated By: Joyce Addai-Davis

Owning a Kente cloth from Ghana is a privilege, signifying respect for family heritage and wealth. Joyce, from a young age, learned to appreciate the craft and cultural significance of these textiles, which can be inherited or purchased from an artisan. Her grandmother acquired a Kente cloth in 1962 from Bonwire, a town north of Accra, marking her coming of age and the birth of her first child. Among many things, her first born taught her the value of money, and so this cloth was named “Sika Ye mogya,” meaning “money is blood” in Twi, the Ghanaian dialect.

Sixteen years ago, Joyce bought her own Kente cloth from the same town, motivated by her desire to honour her family’s tradition. Typically, Kente cloths are preserved for significant life events like first born children or weddings, when they are worn ceremoniously. Joyce keeps hers in its original condition, defying the new trend of cutting into the cloth.

In the past, Kente cloths were never altered; they were draped without cutting. Today, influenced by globalisation, younger generations often modify their Kente cloths into tight-fitting garments, departing from the tradition of preserving the cloth as is. Joyce advocates for preserving her cultural heritage by keeping the cloth in its natural form, which not only prolongs its lifespan but also reduces waste.

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