However much aesthetic appeal these geometric and very colorful prints may have, they are more than just that. Each aspect of the design is intended to communicate something. The prints’ identities are usually either philosophical, socio-political, historical, personal or divine references. An example is Adwene asa, which is translated as ‘my skills are exhausted’. It is the most reputable and expensive of all the Kente patterns (an approximate of fifty different ones). Fathia Fata Nkrumah on the other hand was created for Ghana’s first president and his wife as a garment of honor. Another common pattern, woforo dua pa a na yepia wo (in Twi), is a proverbial one that translates to “when you climb a good tree you are given the push you need.” This assures one of their community’s support when they take up a worthy cause.
Originally, kente cloth was black and white (from raffia tree’s black and white fibers). Dyes were however developed from different plants and a range of colors evolved. Blue was obtained from the indigo plant, red from dried cam wood, brown from Indian tamarind, and green from boiled spinach leaves. This development was used by weavers for a wider range of artistic expression. Each color was assigned a certain feeling or event.
Some of the most prominent colors are gold, symbolizing royalty and wealth; yellow to represent beauty and fertility; green for spiritual renewal and vegetation; blue for harmony; red for political passion and bloodshed; black to represent maturation or death and one’s union with their ancestors; white to symbolize purity and festiveness; and maroon to represent mother earth and healing.
The motifs on the fabric are also symbolic: the elephant signifies kingship, and the scorpion bitterness.