Navigation – Plan du site

Origin disputed. The making, use and evaluation of Ghanaian textiles

Débats autour d’une origine. La fabrication, l’utilisation et l’appréhension des textiles ghanéens
Malika Kraamer
p. 53-76
Traduction(s) :
Débats autour d’une origine. La fabrication, l’utilisation et l’appréhension des textiles ghanéens

Résumés

Depuis les années 1990, un vif débat a pris forme au Ghana sur l’origine du kente. Les discussions portent principalement sur l’antériorité du tissage Asante sur le tissage Ewe. Cette acitvité est très ancienne dans de nombreuses régions du Ghana, et les relations entre les régions de parler Ewe et celles de parler Twi remontent aussi loin que le xixe s. au moins.
Cet article vise à déméler et à mettre en évidence de quelle manière revendications et appropriations de l’origine du kente sont localement répétés et comprises et, à travers cet exemple, comment s’élaborent perceptions locales et réécritures du passé. Pour élucider les paradoxes qui apparaissent clairement, une analyse plus particulière est faite des différentes façons de voir, d’expérimenter, d’interpréter et de mettre en jeu le passé dans un domaine où les récits s’opposent. Les narrations ne font pas que créer des scénarios cohérents qui agencent de manière articulée des significations partagées mais sont aussi remodelées par ces revendications âpres pour le contrôle et l’autorité dans l’interprétation recevable du passé.

Haut de page

Notes de la rédaction

In this article, English instead of Ewe orthography has been used, following local use. For instance, the vowel sound as used in ’rock’ is indicated by -or.

Texte intégral

  • 1 At present, kente is one of the best known of all African textiles. Since the second half of the 20(...)

1When I arrived in Ghana in 1998 to study kente cloths in the eastern part of the country and adjacent Togo, most people engaged me in a discussion on the origin of these textiles. Kente is the common name for hand-woven textiles in southern Ghana and Togo, produced mainly by Ewe and Asante weavers for at least a few centuries (figure 1)1. Ewe weavers are historically known for their cotton textiles full of figurative motifs (see figure 2), among other types; Asante weavers for silk or rayon (the replacement of silk since the beginning of the 20th century) cloths full of non-figurative designs (see figure 3). Since the mid 20th century, Ewe weavers have also started to work within this tradition.

Figure 1 - Nene Nuer Keteku III, paramount chief of the Agotime Traditional Area (Ghana), in a ‘modern’ kente, at the 1999 Agbamevorzã, ‘hand-woven textile or kente festival’

Figure 1 - Nene Nuer Keteku III, paramount chief of the Agotime Traditional Area (Ghana), in a ‘modern’ kente, at the 1999 Agbamevorzã, ‘hand-woven textile or kente festival’

Agotime-Kpetoe, 1999. © Malika Kraamer

Figure 2 - Warp-faced plain-weave textile full of supplementary weft-float designs framed by many weft blocks. Agotime, first half of the 20th century.Cotton, 157 cm x 320 cm (613⁄4" x 126")

Figure 2 - Warp-faced plain-weave textile full of supplementary weft-float designs framed by many weft blocks. Agotime, first half of the 20th century.Cotton, 157 cm x 320 cm (613⁄4" x 126")

This cotton cloth of twenty-three strips has the Dangme word Le Ekpowu woven in the cloth, which refers to a place were, according to Nomo Te, the Agotime forefathers settled for some time. The cloth is probably woven in Agotime-Afegame, one of the very few Agotime towns were people speak Dangme.

Birgitte Menzel collection in the © Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology), Leiden. 5899-10.

Figure 3 - Nana Addai Yeboah, Kentehene, at the 1999 Kente Festival in Bonwire (Asante region, Ghana) in a textile woven with three pairs of heddles, locally known as asasia

Figure 3 - Nana Addai Yeboah, Kentehene, at the 1999 Kente Festival in Bonwire (Asante region, Ghana) in a textile woven with three pairs of heddles, locally known as asasia

Bonwire, 1999. © Malika Kraamer

  • 2 In 2005 I finished my doctoral research on a social and design history of hand-woven textiles from (...)

2I had apparently arrived in Ghana when a heated debate on the origins of kente was at a high; the debate was mainly framed in ethnic terms. Most Ghanaians, especially outside the Ewe-speaking region, stressed that kente, understood as these rayon textiles, originated from the Asante area and therefore Asante weavers taught the Ewe how to weave. As I focused on textiles in the Ewe region, I heard over and over again that the word kente was actually a corruption of the more proper Ewe word kete for hand-woven cloths. Due to the fact that the Asante do not speak Ewe, they changed the term kete to kente when Ewe weavers taught them how to weave2. It was often stated that this should have happened after the Asante wars in the mid 19th century, when many Ewe were taken into captivity. Many Ewe also gave an etymology of kete as: ke ‘to open’ and te ‘to press’. Often, especially weavers, accompanied the wording with bodily movements making a shed and pressing the imagined weft with the beater (figure 4). At the same time, the most common textiles, worn by all those who can afford to do so throughout Ghana, including the Ewe region, continued to be rayon textiles full of non-figurative motifs (figure 1), even though many Ewe-speakers acknowledged that this particular type originated from the Asante region. How should we understand this apparent paradox and the different narratives disputed?

Figure 4 - Kofi Agbemehia in a coastal Ewe six-pole double-heddle loom

Figure 4 - Kofi Agbemehia in a coastal Ewe six-pole double-heddle loom

Kpedzakofe (Ghana), 2000. © Malika Kraamer

3In this article I will disentangle the ways in which different claims are locally reproduced and understood, and therefore gain insight to local perceptions and constructions of the past (cf Bell 2006: 192). While in order to do so I could focus on the ‘inventiveness’ (cf Hobsbawn and Ranger 1983: 1-14) or ‘imagined character’ (cf Ranger 1993) of traditions, instead I wish to explore the past as a mode of present experience (Jackson 1996: 38). I will focus on the ways in which other narratives intersect and are drawn upon by contestants in this debate. I will start, however, with a short introduction on kente, weaving centres and ethnicity in Ghana.

Weaving kente and ethnicity in Ghana

  • 3 The loom used in this area is often called ‘the West African double-heddle loom’, or ‘narrow-strip (...)
  • 4 In contrast, throughout West Africa, the single-heddle loom is still mainly operated by women.
  • 5 In descriptive textile terminology: the alternation of warp- and weft-faced plain-weave areas and t (...)
  • 6 In the beautiful illustrated catalogue Wrapped in Pride edited by Doran Ross in 1998, many other co (...)

4Weaving is one of the older art traditions in West Africa. Kente is one of these traditions, woven mainly in Ghana and Togo. These textiles are composed of narrow strips sewn edge to edge and, like many other West African textiles, woven on the double-heddle loom (see Picton and Mack 1989: 45-54)3. They are woven predominantly by men, though this gender-division is loosening in several textile traditions (Kraamer 1996: 96-100, Kraamer 2005a: 217-218, Clarke 1999: 174-225, Perani and Wolff: 175-176)4. A particular characteristic of many kente cloths over the last 200 years is the alternation of warp and weft blocks and the weaving of many weft-float patterns (figure 2)5. Kente is mainly worn by women as an upper and lower wrapper and by men as a kind of toga, and is often used in the conspicuous display of wealth and status (figures 1 and 5). It is, however, not restricted to the use as a garment6.

  • 7 The claim that Bonwire is the main locality of Asante weaving does not go unchallenged even within (...)
  • 8 The Akan are several related groups, including the Asante and Fante. They speak closely related lan (...)

5Kente is mainly produced in three weaving centres and in some workshops in Ghanaian and Togolese cities, especially Accra, Kumasi, Lomé, and Kpalimé (figure 6). One centre is formed by several villages around Kumasi, including Bonwire, the best known place for Asante weaving7. From the 17th to 19th century, this region formed part of the Asante kingdom, one of the most powerful states in West Africa. Weavers worked mainly on commission for the Asantehene, the Asante king, and his court and aristocracy (e.g. Johnson 1979: 63, 78, McLeod 1981: 156). In the 20th century, their textiles, increasingly woven entirely in rayon, continued to be used as spectacular apparel by Asante and other Akan elites8, but many other groups also adopted its use (Kraamer 1996, Ross 1998).

Figure 5 - Mama Sebeso II (left), Queen Mother, at the 1999 Agbamevorzã, ‘hand-woven textile or kente festival’, wearing a rayon kente created in the late 1990s full of nonfigurative weft-float designs

Figure 5 - Mama Sebeso II (left), Queen Mother, at the 1999 Agbamevorzã, ‘hand-woven textile or kente festival’, wearing a rayon kente created in the late 1990s full of nonfigurative weft-float designs

Since the 1950s, Agotime weavers shifted to this type of kente, which originated in the Asante region. They further developed this style together with Asante weavers. On the right, sits a woman wearing a cotton titriku, ‘thick cloth’, a weft-faced plain-weave textile and a rayon kente.

Agotime-Kpetoe (Ghana), 1999. © Malika Kraamer

Figure 6 - Three main weaving centres in southern Ghana and Togo: villages around Keta Lagoon in Ghana (1), Agotime area in Ghana and Togo (2), and villages around Kumasi in Ghana (3)

Figure 6 - Three main weaving centres in southern Ghana and Togo: villages around Keta Lagoon in Ghana (1), Agotime area in Ghana and Togo (2), and villages around Kumasi in Ghana (3)
  • 9 In the Ewe-speaking area, in contrast to the Asante region, there has been many other textile-produ (...)
  • 10 The Somé live east of the Anlo. Other Ghanaians and Togolese, including inland Ewe’s, refer to both (...)

6The other two weaving centres are located in the Ewe-speaking area in south-east Ghana and adjacent Togo9. Agotime is situated in the middle of this area, partly in Ghana and partly in Togo. In several of its towns weaving is the main occupation, including Agotime-Kpetoe, Agotime-Abenyiase, and Agotime-Akpokofe. In the Anlo and Somé areas at the coast in south-east Ghana, many villages on the upper part of the Keta lagoon and east to this lagoon specialises in the production of hand-woven textiles10. Until the 1960s, Keta was an important wholesale market for these textiles but this market then moved to Agbozume. The textiles produced by Anlo and Somé weavers often overlap due to their proximity and shared wholesale market, but at some points in history there were also differences. They are also interrelated with the textiles from the Agotime area and with areas further to the north.

7The Ewe-speaking region consisted of many small states, sometimes just comprising a few villages. Textiles from this area have been traded, at least since the 18th century, over different parts in West Africa. Historically, Asante weavers were more restricted to what to weave for whom than Ewe weavers, as the latter were not controlled by a centralised court. The largest variety of cloth types can therefore be found in these two Ewe weaving centres. However, the three weaving centres have a long history of interrelations (Kraamer 2006: 36-53, 93-95). Their textile traditions have merged and distinguished from each other in various types of cloth at different points in time.

Debated art historical narratives

  • 11 It is possible that these discussions followed different trajectories of intensity in different wea (...)
  • 12 In the early festival brochures in Agotime and Bonwire the economic development of the weaving indu (...)
  • 13 Apparently, these views were already broadcasted on Ghana´s Television (Safo Kantanka, Ghanaian Voi (...)
  • 14 I would like to thank Nana Addae Yeboah, Kentehene to the Otumfuo Asantehene, for sharing his colle (...)

8Discussions in Ghana on the true originators of kente have grown since the beginning or the mid 1990s11, especially in the printed media. The creation of the Agotime Agbamevorzã, ‘Cloth festival’ or Kente Festival in 1996, and the Bonwire Kente Festival in 1998, were ‘dramatic evidence of a desire on the part of each group to promote its own weaving industry’ (Ross 1998: 22)12. At the second Agbamevorzã in 1997, and in the article ‘Another story about kente’ published around the same time in Ghana´s state-owned and widely-distributed newspaper the Daily Graphic (Apaa 27 August 1997), an Akan origin of the word kente was openly contested. This seems to have been the first time that Ewe speakers gave kete a weaving process etymology and claimed the transformation of kete in kente in the process of teaching Asante weavers how to weave. Apaa also discusses other commonly used ‘evidence’ for the Ewe weaving primacy: weaving has always been an Ewe activity since their migration to their current abode and the growing of cotton in the Ewe area which facilitated the widespread practice of weaving, in contrast to the forested Asante area, where cotton had to be imported from the north. The transfer of technology was pinpointed to the time when many Ewes were taken into captivity by the Asante during the Asante wars between 1869 and 1873 (BBC interview with Nene Nuer Keteku, paramountchief Agotime, Accra, December 1998)13. These claims were counteracted at the first Bonwire Kente Festival in January 1998. The subtitle of this festival, 300 Years of Kente Evolution (1697-1997), was clearly intended to stress the historical depth of Asante weaving (Ross 1998: 23) and emphasis was placed on Bonwire as the centre and home of kente weaving (Oteng 1998: 2, Bonwire Festival program). After confirmation of the Agotime claim by the guest of honour, Nana Konadu Agyamang Rawlings, the then First Lady, and of Asante origin, at the Agotime festival in September 1998, the debate reached a summit, especially in the printed and other media of Ghana (e.g. Safo Katanka Ghanaian Voice 11-14 June 1998, Safo Katanka Ghanaian Voice 3-8 August 1998, Safo Katanka Ghanaian Voice 17-23 August 1998, Safo Katanka Ghanaian Voice 31 August – 2 September 1998; Agboyo The Ghanaian Chronicle 23-24 September 1998, Damson The Ghanaian Chronicle 30 October - 1 November, Kodua The Ghanaian Chronicle 2-3 November; Noretti Ghanaian Times 14 November 1998)14. Those opposing the ‘Kpetoe school’ and supporting the ‘Bonwire school’ (categories introduced by O.B. Safo Kantanka who became one of the most vocal advocators of the Bonwire School) reacted mainly to the Agotime assertions. They gave different claims for the word kente and often stated that Bonwire people invented the art of weaving independently of Ewe people and improved it to kente under the reign of Osei Tutu at the end of the 17th century. References were, for instance, made to the publications of Rømer (2000 [1760]) and Bowdich (1966 [1819]) as supporting evidence for weaving in Asante before the Asante wars in the mid 19th century.

  • 15 In December 1998, the BBC even interviewed Nene Nuer Keteku, Kronor of the Agotime Traditional Area (...)

9The whole public origin discourse fuelled negative ethnic sentiments with remarks such as ‘from those people who have just recently woken up to the realisation of wanting to write, or re-write their history and, in the process, audaciously claiming, as their own, what has persisted through the centuries as inventions or creations of civilised Ashantis’ (Damson The Ghanaian Chronicle 30 October - 1 November 1998)15. However, much evidence in this debate, drawn from oral traditions and written sources (see below), was rather simplistic and non-substantiated through the conflation of three different claims: first, the origin of the term kente, second, the origin of weaving in general in Ghana, and last, the origin of the rayon non-figurative textiles. A closer look at these claims in a historical perspective is a first step to entangle shifting narratives through time and shed light on current concerns.

Origin of the term kente and kete

10Throughout the 20th century, and probably earlier, the word kete was used in the Ewe-speaking area, but the semantic field shifted in and through time. Hiamey states in his B.A. thesis on the weaving industry of the Anlo-Somé area, that “woven fabrics produced on the local loom are called ‘kete’ whilst they are called ‘kente’ in Ashanti. The two words are similar with a seeming adulteration probably due to linguistic infiltration of either group; by who copied from who is highly debatable. However, oral tradition has it that the name ‘kete’ might be derived from a dance game called ‘kete’ which is both a name for fabric and the dance game, and the game is common to the two tribes – Ewe and Ashanti.” (1981: 15).

  • 16 The understanding of developments in semantic fields of words is complicated by the facts that Twi (...)
  • 17 Keté: ein einheimisches dickes Tuch, oft in europäischer Nachahmung verkauft, wird auch als Unterbe (...)

11In dictionaries from various periods of Akan languages (Fante and Twi) and Ewe the words kete and kente can be found, but their explanations do not shed much light on the matter. McCaskie identifies the translation of the word kete in 19th century Asante as a flute or band of flutes, pipes and other instruments (1995: 289), which seems to correspond to the reference that Hiamey found in oral tradition16. In Westermann’s 1928 Ewe-English dictionary, kente has no entry, but keté is translated as ‘a thick country cloth, also used as bed-cover’ (1973 [1928]: 120). In his Ewe-German dictionary from 1905 almost the same translation is given, with two more precisions (missing in the later Ewe-English dictionary)17. He states that Europeans copied it and he refers to the Twi word kete translated as “a mat, the usual bed of natives” (1954 [1905]: 363), a reference likely taken from Christaller. In Christaller’s 1881 Dictionary of the Asante and Fante Language called Tshi (Twi), kete is translated as “a mat, the usual bed of the negroes” and kente as “country cloth, a home-made negro-dress, consisting of a number of narrow strips of cotton-cloth sewed together”. In his co-edited earlier A Dictionary, English, Tshi (Ashante), Akra the term kente is identified as a Fante trade word equivalent to ntama or otam, the generic Asante terms for cloth (1874: 51). The consistency in meaning of the word kente seems therefore of longer time-depth than the word kete. The appearance of kente in the Christaller dictionaries, but not in that of Westermann could further suggest an Akan (Twi or Fante) origin of this word. However, it is unclear to which extent textiles woven in different areas were included in the semantic field of kente. Two 19th century sources indicate that the word kente was used for hand-woven cloth in both the Ewe- and Akan-speaking areas, and perhaps even as a generic name for hand-woven textiles woven by Africans. In 1848, J.G. Widmann reported the extensive trade in locally-woven textiles, at least from the Peki area:

“Much kente (local cloth) is produced here, which people from different countries, like Akim, Akuapim, Akra etc. buy […]. The black people make much indigo, which they consume themselves to dye their cotton yarn. The same also grows here in Akuapim, but the local people do not try so hard with that as do the Eibe or Krepe people” (Basel Mission Archive D-1.3 Afrika 1849-51, Akropong 1849, Nr. 1).

  • 18 On the import of European textiles in West Africa during the slave trading era, see, for instance, (...)
  • 19 Personal communication with Margit Thøfner (University of East Anglia, Norwich), April 2006 and Jan (...)
  • 20 The Gold Coast comprises most of current Ghana west of the Volta River (including the Asante heartl (...)
  • 21 For a lengthy discussion of these textiles, now in the National Museum of Denmark, and indications (...)
  • 22 Little Popo is now Anecho in Togo, Great Popo is Ouidah in the Republic of Benin (still, for part o (...)
  • 23 Different (groups of) people could have used the word for slightly different and only partly overla (...)
  • 24 Apart from kete or kente, other words, such as vedo, ‘Ewe cloth’ and agbamevor, ‘loom-cloth’ are al (...)
  • 25 I argue elsewhere that it is quite possible that cloth weaving followed mat-weaving in the coastal (...)

12His explanation of the word kente could refer just to textiles from the Peki area, but it also could refer to a more widely used word in the Gold Coast for all kinds of locally woven textiles (in contrast to the many imported cloth from Europe)18. The other source can be found in the records of the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen. Just before the Danish ceded their possessions to the British in 1850, the last Danish governor Carstensen collected 12 cloths. Several of them, but not all, are described as kintee, the Danish orthography for kente19. Kintee is used more or less indiscriminately for textiles woven in and outside the then Gold and western Slave Coast20. However, it is unclear how the Danish perceived the origin of their acquired textiles21. One cloth, for instance, which was definitely woven in the Ewe-speaking region due to the abundance of figurative motifs, width of the strips and reference to Anecho [Popo], a town in present-day Togo, was described at its accession in 1847 as “cotton blanket (kintee) from Popo” (see Kraamer 2005a: 490, fig D1-2 and Ross 1998: 153, fig. 10.6)22. As not all their collected textiles were described as kintee, including some definitely woven in one of the weaving centres in the Twi-or Ewe-speaking regions, some room for speculation on the Danish (and possible other European) usage of the word remains unclear. Together with the report of Widmann, it seems that the term was used in a loose way, at least by Europeans, and possible also by coastal people from the Gold Coast (especially Fante), to indicate textiles woven on the double-heddle loom, formed by narrow-strips. This would strengthen the idea that the word kente derives from the Fante word kenten, ‘basket’ (e.g. Lamb 1975: 128, McLeod 1981: 153, Picton and Mack 1989: 121)23. Another indication is the fact that up to today, different names for hand-woven cloths circulate in both the Ewe and Asante weaving centres24, suggesting that mainly coastal people and traders used the word kente in the 19th century. Furthermore, the explanation of the term kete, as made at the end of the 1990s could be of recent invention, as Hiamey, himself from a coastal weaving community, does not give this explanation, though that could also be a lacuna in his work. The fact that he mentions the word kete for woven textiles suggests that the meaning shifted from mat to hand-woven cloth25, and the origin of the word kete could either come from Ewe or Twi and subsequently borrowed into the other language. Several current Asante oral traditions give different explanations to the word kente: to honour Asantehene Oti Akenten, who reigned in the mid 17th century, or to honour Yaa Adoma, the wife of the chief of Bonwire during the reign of Asantehene Osei Tutu (ca. 1680-1717), whose nickname was ‘Kenten’ (Ross 1998: 23). These Ewe or Asante folk etymologies can be supported or denied by historical evidence and the whole debate makes it impossible to differentiate between current inventions and older folk etymologies.

Origin of weaving in Ghana

  • 26 The fragments are balanced, warp- or weft-faced plain-weave narrow strips of different width, somet (...)
  • 27 The Portuguese started to trade in raw cotton that they grew in Cape Verde, next to narrow-strip ha (...)
  • 28 The oldest extant hand-woven cloth along the West African coast is now in the Ulm museum and was co (...)
  • 29 For a more detailed discussion of oral histories on the origin of weaving in these areas see Ross 1 (...)

13The other issue at stake in this debate is the origin of weaving in Ghana and Togo. Archaeological and written sources are scarce on this matter. The earliest extant cotton textiles from West Africa are from burial caves of the Tellem in the cliffs of the Bandiagara Escarpment in the present state of Mali. They date from the 11th to 15th century and are formed by narrow strips sewn together (Bolland 1991: 52-75)26. At least as far back as the 16th century market demand for cotton fibres existed on the West Africa coast (Maier 1995: 73-74)27, but archival sources only indicate the import of cotton cloth to the Gold Coast from Benin, Ouidah and the Ivory Coast (Daaku 1970: 3, 6-7, Law 1991: 44-47)28. The first mentioning of cotton and weaving on the western Slave Coast, as far as I have been able to trace, comes from early 18th century Dutch sources (Dantzig 1978: 95, Kraamer 2005a: 161-162, and 2006: 40-41). These, and other 18th century sources only indicate that weaving is a common activity on the Slave and Gold Coast, including Asante, as is the case in many West African societies (see also Ross 1998: 151-153). They do not shed light on the origin of weaving in these areas. Even when we look at historically documented oral histories on the introduction of weaving in any of the weaving centres, it does not bring us much further clarity. They only suggest that weaving possibly arrived independently in the two areas29; which would suggest that neither the Asante nor the Ewe taught the other group how to weave.

Origin of rayon and silk cloth in Ghana

  • 30 Bowdich also reports the use of imported silk from the north in Asante (Bowdich 1966 [1819]: 35, 33 (...)
  • 31 The far less preference for silk among weavers from the Ewe-speaking region in comparison to Asante (...)
  • 32 The naming of textile categories is done in several ways, depending on idiosyncratic, historical an (...)

14The last claim conflated in this origin debate is about the origin of the use of silk and the specific style of rayon textiles full of non-figurative motifs as woven at the end of the 20th century in both the Ewe- and Twi-speaking areas (figure 7). It is clear that until the mid 20th century, silk and rayon were far more common among Asante than Ewe people. Since the 18th century, the unravelling of threads from European silk and cotton cloths to reuse in the local weaving industries have been reported for both areas (Rømer 1965 [1760]: 36 and Bowdich 1966 [1819]: 35 for Asante, Isert 1992 [1788]: 92, for Ewe). Rømer and Bowdich specifically report the unravelling of silk cloths; Isert does not specify the types of yarn30. In the Asante region, silk is used in increasing abundance for the more expensive textiles woven mainly for Asante aristocracy in the course of the 19th century. At least since the beginning of the 20th century, Asante weavers also produced textiles entirely in silk or rayon. In the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, weavers in different parts of the Ewe region mainly produce cotton textiles, though there are a few reports on the use of silk by Bremen and Basel missionaries (Basel Mission Archive D-1.10, Afrika 1859 Odumase 1859; Spieth 1906: 189)31. In the 1930s or 1940s, several coastal weavers also started to produce rayon textiles in a newly developed technique (figure 8). These textiles, woven mainly for the West African export market, are locally called asidanuvor, ‘hand creative textile’32. Since the 1980s, these textiles are hardly produced anymore. In the 1950s, Agotime weavers gradually moved from the weaving of cotton textiles full of figurative motifs (see figure 2) to rayon textiles full of non-figurative motifs (see figure 1). Agotime weavers not merely reproduced Asante textiles common at that time, but continued, as Asante weavers, to experiment with new designs and colour combinations (Kraamer 2005a: 139-144). Since the 1980s, some coastal weavers also produced this style of textile, but most continued to weave other types of cloth (Kraamer 2005a: 107-157).

Figure 7 -Two chiefs at the 1999 Kente Festival in Bonwire (Asante Region) in warp-faced plain-weave textiles in which the warp is partly covered with supplementary weft floats creating both-faced designs

Figure 7 -Two chiefs at the 1999 Kente Festival in Bonwire (Asante Region) in warp-faced plain-weave textiles in which the warp is partly covered with supplementary weft floats creating both-faced designs

Note the new arrangements of the weft-float designs: in one cloth continuous designs are woven, in the other three instead of two framing devices frame two blocks of weft-float designs, indicating that both textiles were created in the 1990s.

Bonwire (Ghana), 1999. © Malika Kraamer

Figure 8 - Seda-kete ‘silk cloth’ or asidanuvor ‘‘hand creative textile’, right face of a rayon woman-sized warp-faced plain-weave textile with one-faced supplementary weft-float designs and two-faced weft-float designs in the border, woven by Husunu Adonu in the 1950s

Figure 8 - Seda-kete ‘silk cloth’ or asidanuvor ‘‘hand creative textile’, right face of a rayon woman-sized warp-faced plain-weave textile with one-faced supplementary weft-float designs and two-faced weft-float designs in the border, woven by Husunu Adonu in the 1950s

The green yarn used for the warp is called American green.

In the coastal region around Keta (Ghana), 1999. © Malika Kraamer

Confusing claims

  • 33 The time-depth of this particular style, which I argue elsewhere, dates, however, not further back (...)

15The conflation of different types of origin claims concealed the different issues at stake in the Ewe and Asante areas and the different types of knowledge produced, and therefore inflamed the discussions substantially. In the Ewe-speaking area, the origin of weaving was not associated with a particular style of weaving. The term kente (and kete) was understood as inclusive, referring to all locally hand-woven textiles composed of narrow-strips. In Asante, kente was mainly associated with rayon textiles in contrasting colours, a style of weaving that was adopted in the 1950s by Ewe weavers33. However, the local Agotime acknowledgement of this adaptation, which also has been reflected in local terminology as one of the names of these textiles, Asantevor ‘Asante textile’, was not adopted by the newspapers; nor was the point that Agotime weavers developed these textiles (from there) together with Asante weavers (Kraamer 2005a: 139-144).

16The debate clearly stirred the emotions of many people. So what was at stake and why did many Ewe, especially from Agotime, continue to wear and produce so-called Asante-textiles when it was apparently so important to prove that they were the originators of kente? To understand the particular time that this debate captured public imagination, we need to look at the wider political and economic context (cf Ross 1998: 21-23). Under the Lt. Flt. John Jerry Rawlings military (1980-1992) and especially civilian regime (1992-2000), ethnicity increased as a political factor. The animosity between Ewe, who have predominantly supported the NDC, the party of Rawlings, and Asante, who have mainly supported the opposition, increased (e.g. Lentz and Nugent 2000). Furthermore, tourism to Ghana, including ‘roots’ tourism and the growing market for kente to the US, especially in the first half of the 1990s (Kraamer 2005a: 250-252), mainly benefited weavers in the Asante area and Accra (Ross 1998: 22). The initiation of this debate not only started in the Ewe-speaking area, but specifically in Agotime. Since the mid 20th century, Agotime like Asante weavers, have mainly produced for a national and increasingly overseas market, whereas coastal Ewe weavers have continued to produce, to a large extent, for a West African market (Kraamer 2005a: 233-256). Already by 1998, the claims of an Ewe origin was widespread throughout the Ewe-speaking region, as became apparent in the more than 40 group interviews that I conducted throughout the region in 1998 and 1999.

  • 34 The commission of an elaborate and expensive textile in rayon, rather than in cotton, with new desi (...)
  • 35 Furthermore, the reason for wearing certain older types of textiles had more to do with teaching th (...)

17Thus, ethnic pride increased in this period, but this has barely manifested itself in the wearing and producing (and refusal to wear or weave) certain textiles. At most festivals in the Ewe-speaking region, including Agotime, chiefs, queen mothers and elders continue to wear Asantevor34. Only a few chiefs were inspired to use older Ewe kente like adanuvor with figurative motifs at public events, even while many considered these textiles highly unfashionable35.

18I will explore national and ethnic identities in relation to textiles and dress, the variety of textiles in the Ewe-speaking region, and perceived continuities in the production of textiles to understand why the use of Asantevor was not perceived paradoxically in Agotime and other parts of the Ewe region.

Textiles, dress, and social identities

  • 36 Alongside the coastal regions from at least Ghana to western Nigeria, certain dress ensembles indic (...)

19The study of the relationship between social identity, such as national and ethnic identities, and textiles or dress is not simple as there can be many factors determining why someone buys or wears a certain kind of cloth, including available money to spend, taste, fashion, status, and the links between generations, families or larger identity groups, or just very idiosyncratic reasons (Picton and Mack 1989: 11-17)36. Furthermore, different kinds of identities co-exist simultaneously in any individual and community, they are never static and may be manifested on different occasions.

  • 37 Even though it has been demonstrated that dress changes constantly, with changing temporal and situ (...)

20In the literature on textiles and dress traditions in West Africa, the use of fabrics as a marker of ethnic identity is often taken for granted (Eicher 1995)37. Eicher gives, for instance, the following definition on ethnic dress in the 1995 Dress and ethnicity. Change across Space and Time: “The body modifications and supplements that mark the ethnic identity on an individual are ethnic dress” (Eicher 1995: 1). In her introduction she stresses that ethnic dress is never static, that there are sometimes just details of dress which become critical points of distinction between two ethnic groups and ranks within one group, and that gender issues are always involved. As much as these last insights can be assumed, there are some problems in her definition and especially in the presumptions made in the book. When people dress for a specific occasion even when that dress combination is specific to a particular group, this does not necessarily mean that these people are making a statement about ethnicity. Moreover the articles in this edited book that focus on West African dress assume that the relationship between dress and ethnicity is unproblematic (Sumberg 1995, Eicher and Erekosima 1995). There are, however, many reasons why people dress up. Furthermore, the articles seem more to demonstrate that various groups in a different area seem to stress their importance to make a link with previous generations at certain events. That this sometimes runs on the same line as perceived ethnicity does not mean that ethnicity in itself is an issue. The wide distribution of many textiles far beyond their production centre is another indication that ethnicity in itself is often not at stake. Textiles woven by Ewe and Asante weavers, for instance, have been used further away, including by different groups in the Niger Delta of Nigeria (Eicher and Erekosima 1987: 41, Aronson 1982: 43-47).

  • 38 However, to say that the use of textiles was a marker of ethnic identity was an oversimplification. (...)

21Only under very particular circumstances there is a need to define ethnic identities through textiles or dress, for instance in the process of the construction of an ethnicity, or in a process of commodification, such as the use of textiles as part of a cultural strategy to attract tourists (Hansen 2004: 374). Dress played for instance a part in the construction of a Yoruba ethnicity when a nineteenth-century Lagos elite abandoned European names and dress as part of the anti-colonial politics (Picton 2004: 26; Clarke 1999: 313, Peel 1989)38. In the emergence of wider identity groups, such as Ewe and Akan since the late 19th century (e.g. Amenumey 1989, Nugent 1991, Collier 2002, and Meyer 2002, Kraamer 2005a: 60-63, McCaskie 1990), textiles did not play such a part (Kraamer 2005a: 192-197). Also, in the 20th century, textiles are not used to portray specific ethnic identities in Ghana. Wearers throughout Ghana are primarily concerned with a marking of social position, status and personal taste, within a context of competitive and conspicuous display, rather than an ethnic identity, through use of these fabrics. This is especially apparent during festivals, when most chiefs and queen mothers put on bright, strongly colour-contrasting textiles, preferably in a newly-woven non-figurative design. However, in the mid-20th century, kente did configure indirectly in nationalistic discourses. Both nationalists before independence and the political elite afterwards wore kente cloth for different reasons, one to place themselves in line with important people, another to demonstrate a cultural esteem of their own heritage. They used kente as part of a mental process of decolonisation by stressing the intrinsic value of local traditions in contrast to colonial-presumed inferiority of African races and general pre-relativistic worldview (Fosu 1993 [1985]: pc). Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of independent Ghana, made an even more intelligent use of kente when he came to power:

“The national good sense suggested that traditional clothing be reserved for use on formal occasions while European clothing be used for the non-regal realms of farm, factory floor and classroom. In the issue of clothing, the nationalist movement played out its cultural dilemmas in a medium the people could understand. The African was part of a world culture; thus while he had to find a way of expressing his distinct identity, he could not reject any aspect of world culture that was beneficial in terms of progress and development. […] Ghanaian culture could be projected through the display of aspects of any of the ethnic cultures within the boundaries of Ghana. And Nkrumah showed how” (Hagan 1991 in Ross 1998: 166).

  • 39 During his stay in the United States (1935-1945), Nkrumah influenced by African Americans, especial (...)

22Nkrumah made the wearing of kente part of his philosophy of African personality at the beginning of the 1940s39. After the formation of the Convention People’s Party in 1949, he wore kente or batakari at every public occasion. After becoming Prime Minister in 1957, kente became the official dress for ambassadors and was widely used by other politicians. Nkrumah used kente (and to a lesser extent batakari) in his politics to create a national identity and was widely followed by other Ghanaians. His pan-African activities also influenced the use of kente by other African leaders and African Americans (Kraamer 2005b). After the coup in 1966, the leaders of subsequent military regimes used military outfits in public, but the use of kente by politicians under civil governments has remained very popular until today. Even through changes of government and military regime, kente has kept its status of political dress with the connotation, among many others, of the cultural richness of Ghana (Kraamer 1996: 67).

  • 40 The literature on local perceptions of modernity is extensive, for Ghana see, for instance, Meyer 1 (...)
  • 41 Due to the heated debate on the origin of kente, many weavers consciously used the word kete instea (...)
  • 42 Agotime weavers mainly turned to this new demand, followed by a smaller number of coastal weavers, (...)

23The Ewe followed this general Ghanaian trend. In the 1950s, many Ewe weavers, especially in Agotime, shifted to the weaving of rayon fabrics in an Asante style, due to the growing demand for these textiles in Ghana. “The change came in the 1950s. Everybody was copying what Kwame Nkrumah was doing” (Interview with Nene Nuer Keteku III, May 1999). In Agotime, the switch to the production of these textiles is usually discussed as part of larger local discourses on ‘modernisation’ (group interview Agotime-Kpetoe, May 1999)40. In the words of Gideon Kekene, an older weaver from Kpetoe: “this is the time of the new ones, that is why we weave the new style. […] but because of modernisation, that is why we do the modern type” (group interview Agotime-Kpetoe, May 1999). In the Volta Region, they were called Asante-kete, Asantevor, ‘Asante textile’ or Nkrumahvor, ‘Nkrumah textile’; in Togo Ghanavor, ‘Ghana textiles’ or Asante-kete41. Throughout the Ewe-speaking region, the use of these textiles gradually grew, especially during festivals and at the end of the 20th century, even Togolese chiefs were wearing these cloths42.

24The building of a nation state was, thus, the initial stimulus to produce and use rayon textiles in a particular style developed around Kumasi and in the Ewe-speaking region. The shift to these textiles (or rather the adding of a new type of textile to a larger repertoire) was, however, not perceived as a very radical shift. The way the textiles were worn did not differ, for instance, as the wrapping of cloth around the body for men and women was (and is) more or less equal throughout southern Ghana, Togo and parts of the Ivory Coast. The ensembles of dress in which kente play a role, have also cut through perceived ethnic lines at various points in time. For instance, chiefs all over southern Ghana, Togo and the Ivory Coast use a whole set of regalia that does not differ greatly from one area to another, except in the richness of the material used. The Asante and Ewe share, for instance, many elite art forms, including kente. It has been argued that (some of) these regalia have an Asante origin because of the more centralised royal context with its more complicated rituals pertaining to its use than, for instance, the weaker tradition of chieftaincy and regalia among the Ewe (Quarcoopome 1993: 125-151, Ross 1998: 21). However, the process of incorporation of new elements is common among all those societies and is never one-directional. In a rewriting of 19th century textile histories in the former Gold and Slave Coast, I argue that certain characteristics of textiles in the Ewe-speaking region have been influential on the now so well-known Asante textile full of non-figurative motifs (Kraamer 2006: 36-53, 93-95). Furthermore, many of these elite forms have been in use since at least the 19th century. Even when ethnicity seems to be relevant, such as the use of a T-shirt worn under a male kente cloth by the coastal Akan (e.g. Fante), but no shirt worn by the inland Akan (e.g. Asante), this difference may have emerged for reasons other than ethnicity, such as climate conditions or an older tradition of using tailored cloth, each maintained through different interpretations of what indigenous dress is. In the Volta Region, the same difference in dress exists between the coastal and inland Ewe: that is men wear T-shirts under a hand-woven textile on the coast, but not inland (figures 9 and 1). It is therefore not ethnicity that explains these differences leading one to consider that, if taken as the dominant or sole paradigm, ethnicity as a factor is problematic.

Figure 9 - Keta-Some Tutuza, ‘Keta-Somé festival’ held in Agbozume in 1999

Figure 9 - Keta-Some Tutuza, ‘Keta-Somé festival’ held in Agbozume in 1999

Photo courtesy Christian Keteku.

25In general, the association of ethnic group with certain forms of material culture is problematic (Vansina 1984: 29-33, Kasfir 1984), although in most literature and current local discourses the terms Ewe and Asante textiles are common. In this article these terms are just used as a shortcut for the complex interrelationships, development and local importance of various textile traditions in these areas and they follow and help to analyse local usage. Several points should, however, be kept in mind. First, ethnicities are themselves constructed and contingent and those art traditions associated with a particular ethnic group may have a longer history than the construction of this ethnicity itself. In terms of ecology, linguistic, social and religious environments, the Ewe-speaking region is noticeably heterogeneous. Even though there exists today a sense of unity among its people, the different group identifications are largely contextual and have shifted over time. The formation of an Ewe identity has been a modern phenomenon, developing at the end of the 19th century, at which point some of the principal textile types had already been produced for at least fifty to hundred years. It has been an ongoing process full of contradictions and ambiguities (cf Kraamer 2005a: 48-74, 628-636, Amenumey 1989, Nugent 1991, Collier 2002, and Meyer 2002). Second, many art traditions are not confined to certain identity groups as, for instance, the above examples show.

Terminology, technology and the making of textiles

  • 43 An eclectic mix of local and imported elements are on-going characteristics of several West African (...)
  • 44 One of the most recent design innovations is the mutual influences of Ewe and Yoruba weaving techni (...)
  • 45 For a lengthy discussion on local terminology in relation to the organisation of textiles comparati (...)

26There are also other reasons why the shift to rayon textiles full of non-figurative motifs was perceived rather in terms of continuity than discontinuity from an Ewe, and especially Agotime, perspective. Ewe textiles are characterized by a bewildering diversity of colours and patterns. Even after discerning certain unifying characteristics, based on local classifications, the amount of techniques and kinds of textiles still astonishes. The invention of new textile types and the incorporation of foreign elements, together with further incremental and innovative changes within a textile type, have been on-going characteristics of Ewe textile traditions43. Kente that is considered ‘modern’ has especially been desired by different elite groups in the rural and urban areas of contemporary coastal Ghana, Togo and southwest Nigeria; and these customers highlight this request sometimes in this way. ‘Modern’ here denotes that which is new or somewhat new, i.e. cloth that incorporates new designs, new colour combinations, new kinds of materials or even completely new kinds of textiles. Ewe weavers have taken up this general appreciation for new textiles in different ways (figure 5). They continually restate details of specific designs. They experiment with new colour combinations. And they augment the design possibilities made available by the wide range of existing techniques through the use of an increasing range of threads. Apart from cotton, they also use rayon, ‘lurex’ and polyester (figure 10). These incremental changes are often the result of a negotiated interaction between weavers, cloth contractors, cloth traders and customers. The premium placed on novelty is also part of the context in which major formal innovations are welcomed, such as in the case of Asantevor (and more recently Nigerian weave, see figure 10)44. The incorporation of new visual and technological impulses is, therefore, highly appreciated and the adaptation and development of Asantevor is, thus, part of a longer Ewe art historical tradition (Agbenaza 1965: 125-137, Kraamer 2005a: 139-144). The perceived continuities can also be traced when we look at local terminology, the organisation of textiles, and technology. Before the turn to Asantevor, the more complicated textiles woven in Agotime were often full of figurative weft-float motifs. These textiles were called adanuvor, ‘creative textiles’, a local category that continued to be used for the new style. Furthermore, these older textiles were also classified in the way weft-blocks were organised in the entire textile, either as atisue, ‘short stick’ or atitrala, ‘long stick’ and also this classification continued for Asantevor, where the same two basic types of juxtaposition of weft-faced and warp-faced plain-weave areas can be found (see figures 11 and 12). Also, already since the 1950s, many new-designed individual textiles in this new tradition got local Ewe names45.

Figure 10 - Nigerian weave, cotton and rayon warp-faced plain-weave textile with weft-float designs woven with several single-heddles

Figure 10 - Nigerian weave, cotton and rayon warp-faced plain-weave textile with weft-float designs woven with several single-heddles

This textile was woven for Dr. Oguimbade in Ikeja, Lagos (Nigeria) by weavers working for Nelson Amedoda in his workshop in Sogakofe (Ghana). No specific name is given to this textile.

Sogakofe, 2000. © Malika Kraamer

Figure 11 - Atisue ‘short stick’ format: the length of a weft-faced block is essentially the same as the length of a warp-faced area

Figure 11 - Atisue ‘short stick’ format: the length of a weft-faced block is essentially the same as the length of a warp-faced area

Drawing by Malika Kraamer, Rotterdam, 2005.

Figure 12 - Atitrala ‘long stick’ format: the length of the warp-faced area is longer than a weft-faced block

Figure 12 - Atitrala ‘long stick’ format: the length of the warp-faced area is longer than a weft-faced block

This gives an alternation of two kinds of areas: a warp-faced plain area and an area with several weft-faced blocks.

Drawing by Malika Kraamer, Rotterdam, 2005.

27Furthermore, several weavers commented specifically that in terms of technology their has been hardly a shift between the older types of adanuvor and the newer type: weavers continued to use two pairs of heddles to make an alternation of weft-faced and warp-faced plain weave textiles and they continued to use the second pair of heddles to make weft-float motifs (see figure 13). Also, the non-figurative weft-float motifs used in Asante textiles are the same as elements of many figurative motifs. Therefore Agotime weavers were appropriating an Asante design tradition, without major alterations to their weaving technology. Within two decades Agotime weavers had generally abandoned producing the older type of adanuvor. For Agotime weavers, the other principal new elements were the shift to rayon (which involves another count for laying and threading the warp) and a new aesthetic colour framework.

Figure 13 - Wisdom Gidiga weaving with two pairs of heddles

Figure 13 - Wisdom Gidiga weaving with two pairs of heddles

Agotime-Afegame (Ghana), 2000. © Malika Kraamer

Conclusions

28The debates concerning the primacy of Asante versus Ewe weaving provide insights into processes of and clashes in understanding partly shared art traditions. The relationship between ethnicity and use of textiles is marginal in southern Ghana, even when the origin of kente is locally debated in ethnic terms. The focus on the unravelling of different ways of seeing, experiencing, performing and interpreting the past in a field of contested narratives adds a new perspective to the importance given in much recent literature on shifting emphasis toward indigenous truths instead of a positivist view of history (Tilley 2006: 8-13, Miller 2005). Narratives not only create coherent scenarios which articulate shared meanings (Habermas 1987: 136 in Jackson 1996: 38), but are also further shaped in their fierce contestations over control and authority in interpreting the past correctly. The Asante or Ewe vantage point each consisted of multifarious voices but with the articulated consensus on the supposed outcome of the debate: the authority to be accepted as the real inventors of kente. Confusion and conflation of claims did not only arise because of these vantages points, but also because visual, embodied and performed narratives played as an important role as discursive narratives. It is in this disruptive space that the contested, constructed and re-interpreted narratives in the public discourse on the origin of kente continued to produce knowledge without arriving at any consensus.

29The unravelling of this debate shows not only the ways competing claims are deconstructed through local interpretations and manipulations of oral traditions and scholarly work. It also demonstrates that contestation is part of verbal narratives on the supposed real originators of kente and furthermore arise from different perspectives on what actually is contested, stemming from different weights and interpretations of perceived historical events and movements. The use of terms like debate and discourse may overlook the multiplicity of voices, misunderstandings, and narrow-viewing because of the taken-for-granted assumptions carried in practice and traditions of verbal narratives. However, it is in the confusion, loose ends and cross-purposive interactions that much knowledge is produced and contested.

30Such unravelling also helped to grasp an apparent discrepancy between discourse and practice, in this case the wearing and producing of textiles in the Ewe region (acknowledged to come out of an Asante tradition) and at the same time the posing to be the originators of kente cloth. Only by expanding the notion of narrative beyond the verbal realm to encompassing also the material and performative, apparent paradoxes dissolve and local complexities at work can be understood.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Adler P. & N. Barnard (1992) - African majesty: the textile art of the Ashanti and Ewe, New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson.

Agbenaza E. H. (1965) - The Ewe ’Adanudo’. A piece of creative cloth woven locally by Ewes, Kumase, Ghana: University of Science and Technology.

Amenumey D. E. K. (1986) - The Ewe in pre-colonial times: a political history with special emphasis on the Anlo, Ge and Krepi, Accra: Sedco Publishing Limited.

Amenumey D. E. K. (1989) - The Ewe unification movement: a political history, Accra: Ghana University Press.

Amenumey D. E. K. (1997) - A brief history, in A handbook of Eweland. Volume I: Teh Ewes of Southeastern Ghana, ed. F. Agbodeka Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, p. 14-27.

Aronson L. (1982) - Popo weaving: the dynamics of trade in Southeastern Nigeria, African Arts, 15(3, May 1982), p. 43-7, 90-1.

Bell J. (2006) - Losing the Forest but not the Stories in the Trees, The journal of Pacific history, 41(2), p. 191-206.

Bolland R. (1991) - Tellem Textiles: Archaeological Finds from Burial Caves in Mali’s Bandiagara Cliff, Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute.

Bowdich T. E. (1966 [1819]) - Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee, London: Cass.

Christaller R. J. G. (1933 [1881]) - Dictionary on the Asante and Fanti language called Tshi (Twi), Basel: Basel Evangelical Missionary Society.

Christaller R. J. G., Locher R. C. W. & R. J. Zimmermann (1874) - A dictionary, English, Tshi (Asante), Akra, Basel: Basel Evang. Missionary Society.

Clarke D. (1999) - Aso òkè: the evolving tradition of hand-woven textile design among the Yoruba of south-western Nigeria, in Art and Archaeology London: University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies), 459.

Collier K. A. (2002) - Ablode: networks, ideas and performance in Togoland politics, 1950-2001, in School of Historical Studies, Centre of West African Studies, 2003 Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Daaku K. Y. (1970) - Trade and politics on the Gold Coast, 1600-1720: a study of African reaction to European trade, London: Clarendon.

Dantzig A. V. (1978) - The Dutch and the Guinea Coast, 1674-1742: A collection of documents from the General Archive at the Hague, Accra: GAAS.

Devenish D. C. (n.d.) - The slavetrade and Thomas Clarkson´s Chest, unpublished manuscript in Library Wisbech Museum Wisbech, p. 1-5.

Echeruo M. J. C. (1977) - Victorian Lagos: aspects of nineteenth century Lagos life, London: Macmillan.

Eicher J. B. (ed.) (1995) - Dress and ethnicity: change across space and time, Oxford: Berg.

Eicher J. B. (1995) - Introduction: Dress as Expression of Ethnic Identity, in Dress and ethnicity: change across space and time, ed. J. B. Eicher Oxford: Berg, p. 1-6.

Eicher J. B. & T. V. Erekosima (1995) - Why do they call it Kalabari?: cultural authentication and the demarcation of ethnic identity, in Dress and ethnicity: change across space and time, ed. J. B. Eicher Oxord Washington D.C.: Berg, p. 162-4.

Fosu K. (1993 [1986]) - 20th Century Art of Africa, Accra: Artists Alliance.

Hansen K. T. (2004) - The world in dress: anthropological perspectives on clothing, fashion, and culture. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, p. 369-92.

Hiamey T. B. (1981) - The origin and developement of the weaving industry in Anlo-Some Area of Ghana. Agbozume and Anlo-Afiadenyigba weaving industry: a case study, in College of Art Kumase: University of Science and Technology.

Hobsbawm E. J. & T. O. Ranger (1983) - The invention of tradition, Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Isert P. E. (1992 [1788]) - Letters on West Africa and the slave trade: Paul Erdmann Isert’s journey to Guinea and the Carribean Islands in Columbia (1788), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jackson M. (1996) - Things as they are: new directions in phenomenological anthropology, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Johnson M. (1979) - Ashanti craft organization. African Arts, 13(1), p. 60-3, p. 78-82, p. 97.

Jones A. (1994) - A collection of African art in seventeenth-century Germany: Christoph WeicKman’s Kunst-und Naturkammer. African Arts, 27(2), 28-43, 92-4.

Kasfir S. L. (1984) - One tribe, one style?: paradigms in the historiography of African art. History in Africa, 11, p. 163-93.

Kraamer M. (1996) - Kleurrijke veranderingen: de dynamiek van de kentekunstwereld in Ghana, in Faculty of History and the Arts Rotterdam: Erasmus University Rotterdam, p. 1-195.

Kraamer M. (2005a) - Colourful changes: two hundred years of social and design history in the hand-woven textiles of the Ewe-speaking regions of Ghana and Togo (1800-2000), in Art and Archaeology London: University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies), 715 p.

Kraamer M. (2005b) - Gekleed in Kente: Ghanese kleding en Afrikaanse verbondenheid’. In Mode en Emotie, (ver)kleden als idolen. Jaarboek 2004 Nederlandse Textiel Commissie Amsterdam: Stichting Textielcommissie Nederland, p. 119-25.

Kraamer M. (2006) - Ghanaian interweaving in the 19th century: a new perspective on Ewe and Asante textile history. African Arts, 39(4), forthcoming.

Lamb V. (1975) - West African Weaving, London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

Law R. (1991) - The Slave coast of West Africa 1550-1750: the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on an African society, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Maier D. J. E. (1995) - Persistence of Precolonial Patterns of Production: Cotton in German Togoland, 1800-1914, in Cotton, Colonialism, and Social History in Sub-Saharan Africa, eds. A. Isaacman & R. Roberts Portsmouth, NH/London: Heineman/James Currey, p. 71-96.

McCaskie T. C. (1990) - Inventing Asante, in Self-assertion and brokerage : early cultural nationalism in West Africa, P. F. D. M. Farias & K. Barber (eds.) Birmingham: Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, p. 55-67.

McCaskie T. C. (1995) - State and society in pre-colonial Asante, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

McLeod M. D. (1981) - The Asante, London: British Museum Publications.

Meyer B. (1999) - Translating the devil. Religion and modernity among the Ewe in Ghana, London: Edinburgh University Press.

Meyer B. (2002) - Christianity and the Ewe nation: German pietist missionaries, Ewe converts and the politics of culture. Journal of Religion in Africa, 32(2), p. 167-99.

Miller D. (2005) - Materiality, Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Nugent P. & C. Lentz (eds.), (2000) - Ethnicity in Ghana: the limits of invention, New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Nugent P. (1991) - National integration and the vicissitudes of state power in Ghana: the political integration of Likpe, a border community, 1945-1986, London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Peel J. D. Y. (1989) - The cultural work of Yoruba ethnogenesis, in History and Ethnicity, eds. E. Tonkin, M. McDonald & M. Chapman London/New York: Routledge, p. 198-215.

Perani J. & N. H. Wolff (1999) - Cloth, dress and art patronage in Africa, Oxford, New York: Berg.

Picton J. (2004). What to wear in West Africa: textile design, dress and self-representation, in Black Style, ed. C. Tulloch London: V&A Publications, p. 22-47.

Picton J. & J. Mack (1989 [1979]) - African Textiles, London: British Museum Press.

Quarcoopome N. O. (1993) - Rituals and regalia of power: art and politics among the Dangme and Ewe, 1800 to present, in Academic UCLA Art History Los Angeles: University College Los Angeles.

Ranger T. O. (1993) - The invention of tradition revisited: the case of colonial Africa, in Legitimacy and the state in twentieth-century Africa: essays in honour of A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, eds. A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, T. O. Ranger & O. Vaughan Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, in association with St. Antony’s College, Oxford, p. 62-111.

Rattray R. S. (1927) - Religion & art in Ashanti, Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

Renne E. P. (1995) - Cloth that does not die : the meaning of cloth in Bùnú social life, Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Rømer L. F. (1965 [1760]) - The Coast of Guinea, Legon: Institute of African Studies.

Ross, D. H. (ed.) (1998) - Wrapped in pride: Ghanaian kente and African American identity, Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

Spieth J. (1906) - Die Ewe-Stämme: Material zur Kunde des Ewe-Volkes in Deutch-Togo, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Volsen).

Steegstra M. (2004) - Resilient rituals. Krobo initiation and the politics of culture in Ghana, Münster: Lit Verlag.

Sumberg B. (1995) - Dress and ethnic differentiation in the Niger Delta, in Dress and ethnicity : change across space and time, ed. J. B. Eicher Oxford, Washington D.C.: Berg, p. 165-81.

Tilley C. (2006) - Introduction. Identity, place, landscape and heritage. Journal of Material Culture, 11(1/2), p. 7-32.

Vansina J. (1984) - Art history in Africa: an introduction to method, London: Longman.

Westermann D. 1954 [1905] - Wörterbuch der Ewe-Sprache, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Westermann D. (1973 [1928]) - Evefiala or Ewe-English Dictionary, Berlin: Dittrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen).

Newspapers articles

Ghanaian Voice

Safo Kantanka O.B. (1998, 11 to 14 June). Who started Kente Weaving – Ewes or Ashantis? Ghanaian Voice.

Safo Kantanka O.B. (1998, 3 to 5 August). The evolution of Kente – Part 1. Ghanaian Voice.

Safo Kantanka O.B. (1998, 17 to 23 August). Evolution of Kente – Part 2. Ghanaian Voice.

Safo Kantanka O.B. (1998, 31 August to 2 September). Anthropological significance of some Kente designs and patterns. Ghanaian Voice.

Ghanaian Chronicle

Agboyo Judith (1998, 23 to 24 September). Kente came from Volta – Nana Konadu. The Ghanaian Chronicle.

Kodua Clement 1998, 2 -3 November). Bonwire responds to Kente controversy. Nana Konadu Challenged. The Ghanaian Chronicle.

Damson Isaac B. (1998, 30 October to 1 November). Nana Konadu and Anlo Kente. The Ghanaian Chronicle.

Ghanaian Times

Noretti Alberto Mario (1998, 14 September). Time to form co-ops to claim copyright –Nana advises kente weavers’. Ghanaian Times.

Daily Graphic

Apaa (1997, 27 August). Another story about kente. Daily Graphic.

Archival sources

Basel Mission Archive D-1.3 Afrika 1849-51, Akropong 1849, Nr. 1

Basel Mission Archive D-1.10, Afrika 1859, Odumase 1859

Brochures

Festival program Agotime Traditional Area 1997

Oteng, Festival program Bonwire Kente Festival 1998

Haut de page

Notes

1 At present, kente is one of the best known of all African textiles. Since the second half of the 20th century, kente figures prominently in the ‘worlds of design, fashion, and politics’ (Ross 1998: 21; see also Kraamer 1996). It appears both in sacred and profane contexts. In Ghana, the demand is especially high for textiles that are recently developed or that incorporate new patterns, locally often called ‘modern’ cloth (Kraamer 2005a: 196-197).

2 In 2005 I finished my doctoral research on a social and design history of hand-woven textiles from the Ewe-speaking region over the last 200 years. The research has been made possible through funding from the Prins Bernhard Fund, Stichting Fonds Dr. C. van Tussenbroekfonds and Wotro Reisfonds (The Netherlands); a postgraduate studentship of the British Academy; a postgraduate fellowship, a one-year language scholarship and postgraduate additional fieldwork award of SOAS (University of London); the Irvin Trust of the University of London; and a postgraduate fellowship of the Smithsonian Institution (United States). I would like to express my gratitude for these opportunities. I further like to thank Joshua Bell for his invaluable comments on this article.

3 The loom used in this area is often called ‘the West African double-heddle loom’, or ‘narrow-strip loom’. The name ‘double-heddle’ indicates that both sets of warp elements are leashed to one or other of the heddles, and ‘narrow-strip’ indicates the narrow web format of the strips in the textile. The two sets of warp elements are threaded through the loops of the heddles in such a way that when the weaver pushes down one foot, half of the warp threads are pulled down to create the ‘shed’. Pushing down the other foot produces the ‘countershed’. This leaves the weaver’s hands free to throw the weft with a shuttle and to make designs.

4 In contrast, throughout West Africa, the single-heddle loom is still mainly operated by women.

5 In descriptive textile terminology: the alternation of warp- and weft-faced plain-weave areas and the weaving of supplementary overshot weft-float motifs in between the weft-faced plain-weave blocks.

6 In the beautiful illustrated catalogue Wrapped in Pride edited by Doran Ross in 1998, many other contexts in and beyond Ghana at various times are explored.

7 The claim that Bonwire is the main locality of Asante weaving does not go unchallenged even within the Asante heartland. There are over forty Asante towns and villages where weaving forms a substantial occupation for many of the (male) inhabitants and the Asantehene’s official weavers reside not only in Bonwire, but also in Adanwomase (Ross 1998: 23). Furthermore, Bonwire is not mentioned in Bowdich 19th century account of Asante life and culture, though he discusses weaving and royal regalia (Bowdich 1966 [1819]). However, Rattray states that Bonwire was the main weaving centre for the Asante royalty in the olden days (Rattray 1927: 234). Outside Ghana, Bonwire is the most famous Asante weaving town.

8 The Akan are several related groups, including the Asante and Fante. They speak closely related languages, sometimes referred to as Akan. Of these languages, Twi; the language of the Asante, Akuapim, Akyem among others, and Fante, spoken on the coast around Cape Coast, are the most wide-spread in Ghana.

9 In the Ewe-speaking area, in contrast to the Asante region, there has been many other textile-production places in the past and today some weavers can be found in many towns and villages throughout the Ewe-speaking region, and in many other West African towns, including Abidjan, Dakar and Lagos. Today many of these weavers are either from, or trained in, the two main weaving centres and produce the kinds of textiles learned there. Some weavers still weave in an indigenous style particular to that specific area, mostly hand-spun cotton warp-faced textiles. These very localised textiles are still produced, in distinct ways, in the area around Notsé, the Adaklu area and, on a very little scale, in some of the Togo-remnant language-speaking areas like Avatime and Likpe, but the same weavers often also weave textiles that have a far wider distribution. Trade in textiles is not a new phenomenon in the Ewe-speaking area. Therefore, cloth collections in many locations often have a great variety of types of textiles (Individual and group interviews including in Adaklu-Abuadi, February 1999, Akpafu-Todzi, February 1999, Likpe-Mate, February 1999, Avatime-Vane, December 1998 and Notse, March 1999).

10 The Somé live east of the Anlo. Other Ghanaians and Togolese, including inland Ewe’s, refer to both groups mostly as Anlo. Within the coastal area people make clear differences between Somé and Anlo, and some other groups. However, the Somé stress their own identity in opposition to the Anlo much more stronger than the Anlo, who maintain that the Somé, in the end, are part of the Anlo. This has much to do with the particular history of the area: a war in 1792 between the Anlo and Keta people moved the latter to land given by the Klikor people where they founded the Somé state with Agbozume as its capital; under the amalgation policy of the British, the Somé where placed under the Anlo, which they disputed in violent and non-violent ways during the whole time of colonisation (Amenumey 1986: 57, Amenumey 1997: 25-26).

11 It is possible that these discussions followed different trajectories of intensity in different weaving centres. Ross states that the competition between Asante and Ewe interests escalated over the last five years, i.e. since 1992 or 1993 (Ross 1998: 22). However during my fieldwork in Accra, at the Textile Market near the Cultural Centre, and in Bonwire between August and December 1994, I did not notice any ongoing debate on this issue.

12 In the early festival brochures in Agotime and Bonwire the economic development of the weaving industry was mentioned as one of the main reasons to initiate these festivals (Festival program Agotime Traditional Area 1997 and Festival program Bonwire Kente Festival 1998).

13 Apparently, these views were already broadcasted on Ghana´s Television (Safo Kantanka, Ghanaian Voice, 3-5 August 1998).

14 I would like to thank Nana Addae Yeboah, Kentehene to the Otumfuo Asantehene, for sharing his collection of newspapers on this dispute with me, complementary to my own collection.

15 In December 1998, the BBC even interviewed Nene Nuer Keteku, Kronor of the Agotime Traditional Area, on this issue. I would like to thank Nene Nuer Keteku for lending me his tape of this interview.

16 The understanding of developments in semantic fields of words is complicated by the facts that Twi and Ewe are tonal languages with sometimes variations in tonal dialectical differences and that these tones are often not marked in current and older dictionaries.

17 Keté: ein einheimisches dickes Tuch, oft in europäischer Nachahmung verkauft, wird auch als Unterbette auf die Schlafmatte gelegt; G. lokpó: kete ‘a mat, the usual bed of natives’ (Westermann 1954 [1905]: 363).

18 On the import of European textiles in West Africa during the slave trading era, see, for instance, Law 1991: 201.

19 Personal communication with Margit Thøfner (University of East Anglia, Norwich), April 2006 and Jan Katlev, October 2006 (Danis Language and literature Society, Copenhagen).

20 The Gold Coast comprises most of current Ghana west of the Volta River (including the Asante heartland), the western part of the Slave Coast comprises the (coastal) Ewe-speaking area.

21 For a lengthy discussion of these textiles, now in the National Museum of Denmark, and indications for their place of production, as far as possible, see Kraamer 2005a: 488-496.

22 Little Popo is now Anecho in Togo, Great Popo is Ouidah in the Republic of Benin (still, for part of the population, within the Ewe-related language group).

23 Different (groups of) people could have used the word for slightly different and only partly overlapping semantic fields, whereby the one group or person used the term more loosely than the other.

24 Apart from kete or kente, other words, such as vedo, ‘Ewe cloth’ and agbamevor, ‘loom-cloth’ are also used locally for Ewe hand-woven textiles. Vedo is only used for warp-faced plain-weave textiles in the inland Ewe-speaking area (Kraamer 2005a: 109, 116). In Asante, nsaduaso is the general term for their finer cloths (see Ross 1998: 78, 336).

25 I argue elsewhere that it is quite possible that cloth weaving followed mat-weaving in the coastal area, based on local terminology. Warp-faced plain-weave textiles are in the Ewe coastal area, but not in Agotime, called vutsatsa, ‘shuttle-mat’. This term may date from a time when weaving, newly introduced, had to be distinguished from mat making (another common coastal activity) thereby also implying that the oldest form of weaving here is warp-faced plain-weave (Kraamer 2005a: 116-117; Kraamer 2006: 49).

26 The fragments are balanced, warp- or weft-faced plain-weave narrow strips of different width, sometimes with a supplementary floating weft in the weft-faced plain-weave textiles (Bolland 1991: 52-75). The first evidence of woven cotton in Africa comes from excavations at Meroe, in present-day Sudan and date from 500 B.C. to 300 C.E. (Ross 1998: 75).

27 The Portuguese started to trade in raw cotton that they grew in Cape Verde, next to narrow-strip hand-woven textiles called panos. Initially they traded the cotton fibre for African cloth strips, but soon they used Cape Verdean slaves to weave the panos as well. In the 16th century these cloths formed the essential core of Portuguese trade with the Guinea Coast. By the 17th century the Dutch were heavily involved in the trans-Atlantic trade, especially from the Gold and Slave Coasts were they found cotton already grown in considerable quantities (Maier 1995: 73-74).

28 The oldest extant hand-woven cloth along the West African coast is now in the Ulm museum and was collected in the current Republic of Benin (formerly known as Dahomey) before the mid 17th century (Jones 1994: 28-30, 35-36). The width of this cloth, much wider than any textile known from the Ewe and Asante regions, indicates that they were woven outside these areas. As the trade in textiles is a widespread and ancient phenomenon (Law 1991: 45-47), the place of collection is not necessary the location of production. At the end of the 17th century, the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson acquired in Britain, among other objects, several textiles and textile fragments from the African coast by visiting many returning ships from this area. He did not document from where they had been collected (see also Devenish n.d.). They are now in the Wisbech Museum. Judging from their width, none of these textiles seem to come from the Ewe- or Twi-speaking areas, though one textile is made in a technique that so far has been solely attributed to Ewe weavers (Kraamer 2006: 93).

29 For a more detailed discussion of oral histories on the origin of weaving in these areas see Ross 1998: 23-24 and Kraamer 2005a: 165-168. Some of these histories indicate that weaving arrived in Asante from the north-east, while in the Ewe-speaking region from the east. The idea that weaving arrived in Asante from the north is also proposed by Rattray (1927: 220). A comparison in systems of laying the warp, weaving terminology and loom construction suggests that the origin of weaving developed independently in the two areas, but remains speculative (Kraamer 2005a: 165; Kraamer 2006: 36-53, 93-95).

30 Bowdich also reports the use of imported silk from the north in Asante (Bowdich 1966 [1819]: 35, 330-343).

31 The far less preference for silk among weavers from the Ewe-speaking region in comparison to Asante weavers may have been the result of less wealth and the absence of a royal court controlling the weaving industry (Kraamer 2005a: 164). Until the end of the 19th century, the use of cotton has been far greater in all these weaving centres. All 19th century extant textiles are from cotton, and only very few have a few threads of silk incorporated (Kraamer 2005a: 488-512; Ross 1998: 153-155).

32 The naming of textile categories is done in several ways, depending on idiosyncratic, historical and geographical factors, and the element the person wants to point out. These textiles are also referred to as Congo cloth, adanuvor ‘creative textile’, and sidikivor, ‘silk textile’. For a in-depth discussion on naming Ewe textiles see Kraamer 2005a: 107-157.

33 The time-depth of this particular style, which I argue elsewhere, dates, however, not further back than maximum the end of the 18th century (Kraamer 2005a: 178-187; Kraamer 2006: 36-53, 93-95).

34 The commission of an elaborate and expensive textile in rayon, rather than in cotton, with new designs is assigned greater value than an older, inherited cotton cloth. The link between ethnicity and kente is nowadays made mostly by some Ghanaians in the Diaspora. In December 2000, at the opening of a children’s exhibition on Asante culture in the Tropical Museum in Amsterdam, an Ewe queen mother and a representative of the organisation of Ewe people in the Netherlands, dressed purposely in a worgagba cloth, a new type of Ewe textile developed in the 1980s (Kraamer 2005a: 196) bought from the Volta Region.

35 Furthermore, the reason for wearing certain older types of textiles had more to do with teaching the youth about the art traditions of the past (Kraamer 2005a: 197), rather than to stress an ethnic identity.

36 Alongside the coastal regions from at least Ghana to western Nigeria, certain dress ensembles indicate the particular affiliation to a certain religious cult and the particular position within that cult. In the coastal Ewe region, for instance, the white dress of full members in related divination groups are the same, but the particular beads identify the specific association with each divination group.

37 Even though it has been demonstrated that dress changes constantly, with changing temporal and situational variations, the assumption remains that textiles confirm ethnic identity at a particular place and time. The relationship between dress and ethnicity received much scholarly attention in Africa and Latin America (Hansen 2004: 373-374).

38 However, to say that the use of textiles was a marker of ethnic identity was an oversimplification. At the end of the 19th century Yoruba dress was a point of discussion amongst the Lagos intelligentsia in the context of colonial rule (Echeruo 1977) and this intellectual activity “helped to constitute the early stages of the ‘cultural work’ (Peel 1989) of imagining and realising a novel sense of collective identity as Yoruba. […] They raised locally for the first time, the possibility of a relation between dress and a collective identity expressed around an idea of a Yoruba ‘nation’” (Clarke 1999: 313).

39 During his stay in the United States (1935-1945), Nkrumah influenced by African Americans, especially W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, developed a rising pride in his cultural heritage as part of a political consciousness (Ross 1998: 161-164).

40 The literature on local perceptions of modernity is extensive, for Ghana see, for instance, Meyer 1999 and Steegstra 2004.

41 Due to the heated debate on the origin of kente, many weavers consciously used the word kete instead of kente even when speaking in English (or, in French in the Kpalimé region where this discussion was also known due to the frequent movement of coastal weavers between Kpalimé and Anlo-Afiadenyigba). Before the 1990s, the terms were used more interchangeably, mainly kete when speaking in Ewe and kente when speaking in English or French (Interviews with Dale Massiesta, July 2000, Sylvanus Akakpo, September 2003).

42 Agotime weavers mainly turned to this new demand, followed by a smaller number of coastal weavers, due to the differences in market structure, the degree of contact with Asante weavers, and in weaving equipment and techniques at that time. Agotime weavers already worked mainly for local commissions, while coastal weavers mostly distributed their textiles through the Keta, and later Agbozume market, which had a wider reach beyond Ghana. Close contact was probable between Asante and Agotime weavers in the mid 20th century as a number of Agotime weavers were living in Bonwire and others were in regular contact through, for instance, the national weaving cooperative set up under Nkrumah. In the 1950s, Agotime and Asante weavers used two pairs of heddles and a weaving sword to produce an alternation of weft- and warp-faced plain-weave textiles and both-faced supplementary weft-float designs. Coastal weavers had mostly turned to the production of textiles with one-faced weft-float motifs produced with one pair of heddles and a string acting as a single heddle (Kraamer 2005a: 145-148).

43 An eclectic mix of local and imported elements are on-going characteristics of several West African flourishing and developing textile traditions (Picton 2004: 26), but the variety of textiles woven in the Ewe-speaking region is unique in the whole West African region, including Asante and Yoruba cloth.

44 One of the most recent design innovations is the mutual influences of Ewe and Yoruba weaving techniques, and of some Senegalese cloth design characteristics on Ewe and Yoruba textile traditions; a development since the 1990s. These textiles are called Nigerian weave and more recently, also aso oke. Ewe and Yoruba weavers did not, or hardly, adapt features from each others cloth traditions through phy­sical contact, but through the careful studying of samples. This development has been documented in detail, by Duncan Clarke in Nigeria and by myself in Ghana and Togo, and, there­fore, not only allows us to understand how these innovations have developed and circulated, and under which constraints, but also how they have become regarded as truly part of a textile tradition. It also sheds light on the nature of innovation and creativity (Clarke 1999, Kraamer 2005a).

45 For a lengthy discussion on local terminology in relation to the organisation of textiles comparatively between Asante and Ewe weavers see Kraamer 2005a: 107-157.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 1 - Nene Nuer Keteku III, paramount chief of the Agotime Traditional Area (Ghana), in a ‘modern’ kente, at the 1999 Agbamevorzã, ‘hand-woven textile or kente festival’
Crédits Agotime-Kpetoe, 1999. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Titre Figure 2 - Warp-faced plain-weave textile full of supplementary weft-float designs framed by many weft blocks. Agotime, first half of the 20th century.Cotton, 157 cm x 320 cm (613⁄4" x 126")
Légende This cotton cloth of twenty-three strips has the Dangme word Le Ekpowu woven in the cloth, which refers to a place were, according to Nomo Te, the Agotime forefathers settled for some time. The cloth is probably woven in Agotime-Afegame, one of the very few Agotime towns were people speak Dangme.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Titre Figure 3 - Nana Addai Yeboah, Kentehene, at the 1999 Kente Festival in Bonwire (Asante region, Ghana) in a textile woven with three pairs of heddles, locally known as asasia
Crédits Bonwire, 1999. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 392k
Titre Figure 4 - Kofi Agbemehia in a coastal Ewe six-pole double-heddle loom
Crédits Kpedzakofe (Ghana), 2000. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 356k
Titre Figure 5 - Mama Sebeso II (left), Queen Mother, at the 1999 Agbamevorzã, ‘hand-woven textile or kente festival’, wearing a rayon kente created in the late 1990s full of nonfigurative weft-float designs
Légende Since the 1950s, Agotime weavers shifted to this type of kente, which originated in the Asante region. They further developed this style together with Asante weavers. On the right, sits a woman wearing a cotton titriku, ‘thick cloth’, a weft-faced plain-weave textile and a rayon kente.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Figure 6 - Three main weaving centres in southern Ghana and Togo: villages around Keta Lagoon in Ghana (1), Agotime area in Ghana and Togo (2), and villages around Kumasi in Ghana (3)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 200k
Titre Figure 7 -Two chiefs at the 1999 Kente Festival in Bonwire (Asante Region) in warp-faced plain-weave textiles in which the warp is partly covered with supplementary weft floats creating both-faced designs
Légende Note the new arrangements of the weft-float designs: in one cloth continuous designs are woven, in the other three instead of two framing devices frame two blocks of weft-float designs, indicating that both textiles were created in the 1990s.
Crédits Bonwire (Ghana), 1999. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 384k
Titre Figure 8 - Seda-kete ‘silk cloth’ or asidanuvor ‘‘hand creative textile’, right face of a rayon woman-sized warp-faced plain-weave textile with one-faced supplementary weft-float designs and two-faced weft-float designs in the border, woven by Husunu Adonu in the 1950s
Légende The green yarn used for the warp is called American green.
Crédits In the coastal region around Keta (Ghana), 1999. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Figure 9 - Keta-Some Tutuza, ‘Keta-Somé festival’ held in Agbozume in 1999
Crédits Photo courtesy Christian Keteku.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Titre Figure 10 - Nigerian weave, cotton and rayon warp-faced plain-weave textile with weft-float designs woven with several single-heddles
Légende This textile was woven for Dr. Oguimbade in Ikeja, Lagos (Nigeria) by weavers working for Nelson Amedoda in his workshop in Sogakofe (Ghana). No specific name is given to this textile.
Crédits Sogakofe, 2000. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Figure 11 - Atisue ‘short stick’ format: the length of a weft-faced block is essentially the same as the length of a warp-faced area
Crédits Drawing by Malika Kraamer, Rotterdam, 2005.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Titre Figure 12 - Atitrala ‘long stick’ format: the length of the warp-faced area is longer than a weft-faced block
Légende This gives an alternation of two kinds of areas: a warp-faced plain area and an area with several weft-faced blocks.
Crédits Drawing by Malika Kraamer, Rotterdam, 2005.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Figure 13 - Wisdom Gidiga weaving with two pairs of heddles
Crédits Agotime-Afegame (Ghana), 2000. © Malika Kraamer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/1316/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 161k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Malika Kraamer, « Origin disputed. The making, use and evaluation of Ghanaian textiles », Afrique : Archéologie & Arts, 4 | 2006, 53-76.

Référence électronique

Malika Kraamer, « Origin disputed. The making, use and evaluation of Ghanaian textiles », Afrique : Archéologie & Arts [En ligne], 4 | 2006, mis en ligne le 13 juin 2018, consulté le 11 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/1316 ; DOI : 10.4000/aaa.1316

Haut de page

Auteur

Malika Kraamer

malika.kraamer@gmail.com
New Walk Museum, 53 New Walk, Le17ea Leicester, Royaume-Uni

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

CNRS - ArScAn. Cartographie d’après www.geoatlas.fr

Haut de page
  • Logo ArScAn - Archéologies et Sciences de l’Antiquité (UMR7041)
  • Logo Ethnologie Préhistorique
  • Logo CNRS
  • OpenEdition Journals