Kente is undoubtedly Africa’s most popular cloth, worn by millions across the continent. While many can attribute its origin to Ghana, not many, including Ghanaians know the exact town or village it originated from.
If you have ever found yourself in that position, wondering the exact origin of Ghana’s most famous and oldest cloth, then you are just at the right place, for the right answer.
Kente according to historians originated from the small township of Bonwire in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipal District in the Ashanti Region.
The Town which has a population of about 11,000, was made famous for its commercial production of the Kente material. Unlike most towns in Ghana where a majority of the working population are into either farming or fishing, Kente weaving is the most dominant occupation in the Bonwire Township, with almost all the males in the working age group engaged in the craft.
This has also made Bonwire a huge tourist destination for tourists from different part of the world, who regularly visit Ghana and make trips to the town to see how the good old famous traditional cloth is woven.
Brief History of Kente
The first documented history of Kente dates back to the 17th Century AD, during the peak of the Ashanti Kingdom. However some historians trace the history of the cloth to as far back as 3000 BC, when African history wasn’t documented.
It is believed by these historians that weaving in Africa began in that period and it was from there that the weaving of Kente was learnt and improved upon by the Ashanti Kingdom. More complicated, the large chunk of the history of Kente is grounded in Legends and unverified stories rather than well researched and proven historical documents. For instance, one of such legends, claim a man named Ota Karaban from the town of Bonwire, learnt the art of kente weaving from a spider which was waving its web. He later weaved cloth using the same method learnt from the spider and after its success, told the chief of Bonwire about it. The Chief then passed on the news to the King of the entire kingdom, the Asantehene, who after seeing the beautiful piece of cloth, adopted it and declared it as the traditional and royal cloth of the whole Ashanti Kingdom.
While such stories cannot be confirmed, they have stood the test of time and have been passed on from one generation to another.
Bonwire, lying some 18km off the Mampong-Kumasi road, remains a great tourist destination where one can go and have a closer look at how this beautiful traditional cloth is produced.