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Kente Cloth Ceremonies

Each spring, the African Studies Program recognized students who are graduating with majors or minors in African Studies by inviting them to the Kente Cloth Ceremony. The students, their families, faculty and staff celebrate their achievements.

Kente is more than just a cloth. Like most of Africa's visual art forms, it is a tangible representation of history, philosophy, ethics, religious belief, and political thought. And, like art forms the world over, it figures in stirring celebrations of community life and personal achievement.

At one time only royalty could commission and wear Kente, and then only for special social functions. New technologies and ideologies of production eventually made it more widely accessible to those who could afford it. Nevertheless, the fabric still retained its association with high social status. Today, in spite of the proliferation of both hand-woven and machine-printed Kente, the authentic forms of the cloth still stand as symbols of social prestige, nobility, and cultural sophistication.

Akan traditional protocols link the use of Kente to a variety of important social occasions, many with religious significance. According to these protocols, the fabric is not meant for use in commonplace daily activities. Rather than being worn as an ordinary garment, Kente aids in the recognition of special moments. One might use it as a symbol of respect for the departed during rites of burial and ancestral remembrance. Or one might give it as a special gift during ceremonies for child-naming, soul-washing, puberty, marriage, or graduation. The fabric’s significance as a symbol of prestige, gaiety, and glamour is evident during festivals, historic commemorations, and other community events, when people proudly wear their best Kente to reflect the spirit of the occasion.

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