Akan rulers (Omanhene or Asantehene) announce their wealth and power—and protect themselves from evil—by wearing elaborate displays of royal regalia (agyapdie) that have changed little since the fifteenth-century foundation of the Akan states, the most influential of which is Asante. Textiles form an important part of this regalia.
Asante Kente cloths are composed by stitching together strips of woven fabric that alternate warp- and weft-faced weave, resulting in a checkered effect. Once a royal textile whose use was carefully restricted, kente is now the national cloth of Ghana and an international symbol of pan-Africanism. Kente is draped around the body without fasteners, requiring constant readjustment, or “dancing,” of the cloth, which allows its patterns to be seen in motion. Both whole cloths and smaller patterns are named for proverbs, objects, and people. Exhibiting the skill of the weaver, named weft-faced patterns are concentrated at the cloth’s ends. A large, 24-strip men’s wrapper (1998-698) includes nnwötoa (“snail’s bottom”) and nkyɛmfrɛ (“broken pots”) in red and yellow.