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  • Writer's pictureJenna Bruns

African Beauty

African Kente Cloth has a history as colorful as the cloth itself. It originated with the Ashanti people of Ghana some 375 years ago. Legend has it that two brothers were hunting and came across a spider spinning a web. They were so intrigued by the web-weaving, that when they returned to the village, they wove together black and white strips of bark and presented this to the king. The king wanted brighter colors, so the people ground up tree bark and berries to make dye. They created 3 colors--red, green, and yellow--the traditional Kente colors. Silk threads were soaked in the dyes then woven together to make beautiful fabrics for the king. The designs were geometric and evolved from the history and beliefs of the Ashanti people. Each design had a specific meaning.

Originally, Kente was worn only by kings and chiefs. Today, of course, it is worn by many people and is also used to make bags, shirts, and other items which are sold commercially. In addition to silk, rayon and cotton are now used to create Kente cloth.

The full altar frontal and paraments were made from a large piece of Kente cloth for St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA. The cloth was brought from Africa and gifted to the church by the Reverend Sipo Elijah Mzimela. St. Bartholomew's then commissioned me to make the pieces and dedicated them to his memory. It was quite an experience working with the fabric and realizing that it was hand made halfway across the world! I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to make these very special paraments using such beautiful fabric.



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