A genuine royal Kente cloth is extremely difficult to get hold of but this winter one has found its way to Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.
Every year the king of the Ashanti people in Ghana commissions 10 new Kente cloths from the traditional Akan weavers of the country. Five of these are taken into the royal collection and the others are sold. They are quickly snapped up by collectors and connoisseurs.
A genuine royal Kente cloth is extremely difficult to get hold of but this winter one has found its way to Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. It is on show in the CDC Gallery’s Pan African Craft Exhibition (PACE) 2010, a collection of top African craft and design curated by Adam Levin and Andile Magengelele.
Made by master Kente weavers Kente Digital, this cloth is especially rare—it was designed on a computer. Ordinarily Kente cloths are manually designed and then woven by hand on a loom. In a techie moment Ashanti King Nana Kwaku Dua endorsed the design brand Kente Digital, allowing a new generation of the Kente designs to be designed with Photoshop. Although the pattern is computer-generated, each intricate square is hand-woven on a double-heddle loom and then stitched together to form a large cloth.
Traditionally the designs and colours used in Kente cloths are symbolic. Typically one contains a symphony of symbols. The colour green, for instance, is meant to represent agricultural and spiritual growth, blue is the colour of peace, red represents blood and gold is a sign of royalty and prosperity.
Kente Digital’s cloth is the rarest item on show and visitors who find themselves coveting a royal Kente cloth will probably have to settle for an imitation from an African art store.
But the exhibition showcases a range of more easily accessible items by top designers and crafters from all over Africa.
Some of these include a Napoleon chair by House on Fire, a studio for utilitarian sculpture in Swaziland and a range of modern wooden stools, tables and storage containers based on traditional Ashanti furniture by Ghanaian company Tekura Designs.
PACE2010 is at the CDC Gallery on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton until July 31