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Kente Cloth

Product analysis

The market

Most Kente strips are sold in shops and at street markets. Customers choose their favourite strips and discuss designs and sizes with the shop assistant or stall-holder (usually a woman). She then sews the strips together to make the finished article, which the customer returns later to collect.

There is a large tourist market for Kente cloths and garments, particularly in Accra (the capital city) and Kumasi (the home of Kente design). They are also extremely popular with Ghanaians, but unfortunately many local people cannot afford to buy them.

Technical specification

Product function
The Kente strips or cloths are usually made into toga-style robes or smocks. Sometimes portions are used on the front of waistcoats or as collars on jackets. Football supporters (of which there are many) sometimes buy strips like scarves, woven with the colours or names of their team.

Materials
Fine cotton, rayon or silk threads are used to make Kente cloths. The threads used come in a multitude of colours.

Production
The weavers make the strips on narrow, timber looms that are usually handmade. Often women in the family sew the strips together - usually by hand, but sometimes using a treadle sewing-machine.

Safety
The weavers work very fast. The mechanism operated by the pedals, which shifts the warp threads from one position to another, could cause injury. To avoid this, people respect each weaver's work space and only the weavers themselves get close to the working parts.

Other minor hazards arise from general tailoring methods, for example using sharp scissors.

Ergonomics
The weavers make their own looms, and design them to suit their size and shape.

Aesthetics
Kente cloths are always made up of strong, geometric designs. The most popular colour is orange. Kente designs have become so popular that mass-produced versions printed in south-east Asia are now found around the world.

Completed Kente strips are rolled up and carried to the marketplace so that they are a convenient size and shape for sale. Ready-made cloths that are already sewn together are often packaged in clear polythene bags to keep the dust off, but at the point of sale the customer would expect to see the whole fabric unwrapped.



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