Kente stoles are a popular symbol of African heritage and pride. These handwoven cloths are a common sight at college graduation ceremonies and other important events around the world. They are woven on horizontal strip looms, which produce narrow bands of cloth about four inches wide. The strips are then carefully arranged and hand-sewn together to form the final cloth.
The history of kente stoles is complex, with multiple meanings attached to each of the various patterns and colors. For example, black and red are symbols for the people of African descent; green represents fertility and abundance in Africa; and yellow symbolizes wealth.
These motifs are reflected in the design and color of many modern kente stoles. They are also used to represent the various social movements, cultural and religious beliefs, political thoughts and historical events of Africa.
Traditionally, men and women wear kente stoles as a way to show their pride in their ancestry and accomplishments. They are a staple of the Black diaspora, and their use has grown worldwide.
One of the first universities to embrace this practice was West Chester University in Pennsylvania, where a group of administrators decided to include kente stoles in their commencement ceremony. Founded in 1793, the school recognized the importance of honoring the kente stoles unique personal and academic struggle that many black students went through to earn their degree.
To date, kente stoles are worn at all major collegiate graduation ceremonies and many high schools across the country. This annual ritual weaves the wisdom of Africa before the Middle Passage with the persistent struggle to (re)attain knowledge of one’s self that defines Black experience in the Diaspora.
The earliest kente stoles were made of handwoven cloth, but today you can find both handmade and printed kente cloth on the market. Generally, handwoven kente cloth is more expensive than printed versions, but both are available.
Kente is an ancient fabric that has been woven for centuries by Ghanaian artisans and used in traditional rites and celebrations, especially during times of extreme importance. It is known for its bold and vibrant colors, intricate patterns and rich designs.
Most kente weavers are men, but women also work on the loom. Some kente patterns are derived from proverbs, historical events and important chiefs. Others are named after plants and animals or flowers.
These motifs are a part of the traditional culture of Ghana, where they have been a part of everyday life for centuries. In fact, kente cloth is a part of the national dress of Ghana.
In Ghana, kente cloth is a symbol of pride and dignity in the ethnic ancestry of many people. It is often woven in the colors black, red and green, which are the colors of the Pan-African movement and Black Pride consciousness.
During the 1960s and 1970s, kente stoles were often worn by members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Power movement. They were later adopted by Hip Hop artists in the 1980s and have since become a staple of Black pride.