Ghana is a beautiful African country located in the west of Africa. Ghanaians are not only just fond of colourful and bright fabrics but also have strong cultural and traditional values attached to their clothing. Ghana is one of the growing economies of the African continent. In this article, we will talk about the Traditional Ethnic Clothes of Ghana and the cultural essence of it.
Fashion is considered a form of expression for many centuries. It represents the culture and traditions of a certain country or a region over a period of time. It also represents different forms of art and the uniqueness of materials from the region. In Ghana, Each ethnic group, with their distinct culture across the nation, represents themselves uniquely in the way they dress.
History of Ghanian Fashion
Roots of Ghanaian fashion goes back to the pre-colonial era. Traditional wooden looms of cotton and raffia ( traditional Palm tree fibre ) and wool are existing from those times. And, they are still considered an important aspect of their fashion. Kente, Kete and Gonja cloth are used in most of the traditional ethnic clothes of Ghana.
With Kente being from the Ashanti region is not only popular in Ghana but in other western African countries. Kete is from Ewe and Gonja is from the Northern part of Ghana. National clothing of Ghana is usually made from these fabrics.
Kete is similar to Kente. It is also famous, for its bright colours and symmetrical pattern. Although the origins are not clear, both textiles are of great value to the cultural heritage of Ghana.
Kente – A Traditional Ethnic Outfit of Ghana
Kente is a unisex outfit/fabric. But, it is worn by men and women differently. Men wear it as an ancient Greek toga – across one shoulder and around the body. Women wear a two-piece kente: one forms a wrap-around skirt (2 yards long and 45 inches wide piece of fabric) and another one is used as a shawl. A plain-coloured blouse is worn to complete the attire. It is also a traditional ethnic wedding outfit of Ghana.
Kente fabric is globally known for its unique and bright patterns. All these patterns have a symbolic meaning to it. Also, each colour signifies an important aspect of life.
- red – blood; strong political and spiritual feelings;
- pink – calmness, tenderness, and similar qualities;
- purple – Earth; healing;
- blue – sky; harmony, peace, good fortune, love;
- green – plants; growth and good health;
- silver – moon; purity and serenity;
- yellow – yolk of the egg; some fruits and veggies; holy and precious things;
- gold – wealth, royalty, etc.;
- white – white of the egg; white clay used in some rituals; healing; purity;
- maroon – Earth; mother; healing and protection from evil;
- grey – ashes; spiritual cleansing;
- black – ageing; strong spiritual energy, the spirits of the ancestors.
Isn’t this so amazing, how a textile piece becomes an important part of life and has a value attached to it. Kente has usually big, bold, square checks pattern completely handwoven.
Do you know? Kente is almost 400 years old type of textile. It was then, woven from raffia palm fibres and the tissue structure looked like a basket.
Gonja Cloth and how it is used?
Unlike Kente and Kete, Gonja is not check-pattern or super colourful. As it is used more for men outfits, the fabric is woven with a striped pattern. This is used to make a kurta or long kaftan looking shirts for men called Smock. Usually very loose and breathable in the hot temperatures during summer. Also, cotton is used for making this type of fabric.
Gonja also has a traditional ethnic root attached to Ghana and several men in rural and semi-rural areas wear it as daily wear. It is usually dyed with natural dyes.
In today’s time, Ghana fashion is adapting to modern western wear, with the amalgamation with their traditional fabrics and craft. Colonisation and trade with several countries have surely affected their usage of traditional clothing, but it still holds a strong spot in their overall traditional gatherings, like festivals and weddings.
To know about other traditional ethnic clothing from the world, do check out this blog.