It’s black history month! Even though I teach African art, and about African-American artists throughout the year, I wanted to do a lesson about Kente cloth with my students to tie into some other lessons that were happening in their regular classrooms. Paper weaving is a great way to introduce the concept of weaving, and Kente cloth, with all the colorful patterns is always appreciated by the kids. Students are always interested to learn that the colors used in the designs stand for things, and students enjoy making their own autobiographical designs using symbolic colors.
- black—maturation, intensified spiritual energy
- blue—peacefulness, harmony and love
- green—vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
- gold—royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
- grey—healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
- maroon—the color of mother earth; associated with healing
- pink—assoc. with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
- purple—assoc. with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
- red—political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
- silver—serenity, purity, joy; assoc. with the moon
- white—purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
- yellow—preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty
The vertical pieces are called the “warp.” The pieces woven into those pieces are called the “weft” or sometimes “woof!” This always makes kids laugh. Students experiment with different types of weft by cutting straight, wavy, zig zag, thick, thin… sometimes even tearing pieces to see what effect can be created. The trick is to make sure that each strip is woven in the opposite over-under pattern of the strip before. This can be confusing, but with a little assistance, kids usually don’t have a problem with it. When I have students with special needs, I help them cut the warp a little thicker and make thicker strips. Usually 4 pieces for the warp and good 1″ straight weft pieces are the ideal size for students that may be challenged by more delicate, irregularly-shaped strips.