My Kente Quilt

I’ve wanted to buy a kente quilt [read: blankey] ever since coming to Ghana, but have held off due to the high cost of  the fabric and not knowing who to buy from. But last week at Tafi Abuife the kente was plentiful, the price was right, the stars were aligned, and I just couldn’t resist.

The following patterns, passed down through multiple generations, were selected for my quilt. Despite appearing simplistic, each of these abstract designs take 5-9 hours to complete a two yard strip. Altogether, the nine strips of kente I chose took a whopping 62 hours to weave.

Steps (Togbe) :

Birds (Afala) :

Hills & Sugarcane (Eto) :

Our People’s Footpath (Mat) :

Life’s Direction (Mor) :

Unity (Ashe) :

Unity #2 (Dekaworwor) :

After paying Aikins for the cloth, we rode motorcycle taxis over to a well-named tailoring shop in a neighboring village. Mary, an extremely nice seamstress, began sewing the kente cloth together strip by strip.  Earlier that day, I had carefully arranged the kente strips to make an evenly laid out design with a very diversified color scheme. It was a very nice layout, but I forgot to tell this to Mary. She stitched the strips together according to what she thought would look good, which I was completely okay with. After all, she’s the expert! After 45 minutes, Mary finished sewing my quilt without breaking a sweat [or removing her hair curlers]. The end product looks decidedly more original and ‘African’ than the almost symmetrical layout I had planned, and I am glad that I ‘let’ a Ghanaian arrange the kente design. Special thank you to Chris & Aikins for introducing me to their wonderful village.

Tafi Abuife Kente Village


Kente weaving is an ancient art, its roots dating before 3000 B.C. This past week Drew, Adriana, and I visited the largest kente village in Ghana – Tafi Abuife.

Aikins, our friendly guide, gave us a tour around the village of 3000. Every child is taught the art of weaving kente upon reaching the age of seven – as a birthright, responsibility, and means of making money. The ‘click clack’ sound of looms can be heard across the village.

Kente weaving was inspired by intricate spider webs in the ancient forests of Ghana. Legend says that two hunters found an exceptional web, and studied its designs and patterns for two days. Afterwards, they returned to their village to implement what they had seen. Kente was known as the ‘cloth of kings’ due to the cost and time required to weave it. Even with modern-day technology, it is still woven by hand. Each strip is classified by the number of weaves used to make it. A single weave takes five hours to complete, a double weave takes seven hours, and a triple weave takes a whopping nine hours.

Everything about kente is symbolic – the colors, symbols, and geometric designs. Common designs include those of unity, birds, hills, and our footprints as human beings.

My favorite part of the tour was getting to see the ‘weaving houses.’ These sweatshop-like buildings were built by the government to ensure that kente could still be produced during the rainy season. There are three of these buildings in all.

Kente sellers were eager for us to try on their goods to potentially make a sale. Their tactics worked; I now own the two satchels seen in the photo below.

All in all, it was great seeing kente being produced firsthand. I would have loved to stay overnight in the village for a weaving apprenticeship, but my time was limited. But that didn’t keep me from ordering a custom-made kente blanket, the subject of tomorrow’s post!