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Museum Presents: "Kente ? Cloth of Asante Royalty"

(Posted September 7, 2000)

For centuries the Asante of central-west Africa have created special textiles to identify royal status and ritual associations within society. Among these textiles, kente (literally, "basket") cloth is the most widely known and recognized. On Sept. 15, the Juniata College Museum of Art will offer visitors a firsthand look at the "basket" textiles in the exhibit, "Kente: Cloth of Asante Royalty."

At 6 p.m., Sept. 15, Harriet Schiffer, a specialist on African textiles, will give a public lecture in Good Hall 402 followed by an exhibit opening reception from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the museum, Carnegie Hall. The exhibit will remain on display until Nov. 4.

Kente cloth is made from several long, narrow lengths of independently woven strips of fabric, which are sewn together to form a large, rectangular cloth. Typically, each strip is 4 to 5 inches wide and 120 inches long. Approximately 20 to 24 strips are used to form a finished garment that measures 96 by 120 inches. These large garments are worn by men, wrapped around the waist and draped over the left shoulder and upper arm, while women wear a multi-piece garment, made from smaller pieces of cloth to form a bodice, skirt, and headwrap.

Each strip pattern has its own name and meaning. More than three hundred patterns have been identified and documented. Some patterns honor specific people, rulers, queen mothers, artists, families, historic events, or themes such as wealth, peace, and well being. Examples of pattern names include, "no man governs alone," "one thousand shields," and "skill is exhausted."

Traditionally, the weaving and sewing were performed exclusively by male artists. Asante kings controlled kente cloth production, which was centered at Bonwire, a village near Kumasi, Ghana.

Kente cloth has become widely popular outside of Ghana, particularly in the United States, where the textiles and patterns continue to play an important role in social identity.

The works in Juniata?s exhibition are on loan from Harriet B. Schiffer, Ph.D.

LFS for Wonoo Ventures.

The museum is located in historic Carnegie Hall (1907) at 17th and Moore streets in Huntingdon. Reach the museum by phone at (814) 641-3505. Museum hours are M-F, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sat., noon to 4 p.m. For more information, visit the Juniata College Web site at http://www.juniata.edu/

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.