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Kente cloths in Ghana

In stark contrast to sweatshop employees, who make clothes to meet the changing demands of consumers thousands of miles away, many textile workers are part of a proud local tradition.

Kente cloths have been made in Ghana for hundreds of years. The cloths are made up of a series of strips, each woven separately and designed to convey a message or to commemorate an important event. People in the industry often relatives and friends work together in cooperatives to design, weave, sew together and sell cloths. Short strips (about 1.5 metres long) are popular with tourists. Local people usually buy longer strips (about 10 metres long) and sew them together to make into toga-style robes, or into more western-style clothing such as waistcoats, scarves and sashes. Very wealthy Ghanaians and royalty wear Kente robes made from silk, double woven for superior quality and strength. Cheaper cloths are made from cotton threads.

Traditional, handmade Kente cloths are now under threat from mass-produced copies made in other countries (in some places the designs are even printed onto cloth, rather than woven). The Ghanaian designers and weavers are trying to copyright and patent their designs in order to protect their local industry.

Kente Cloth case study



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Practical Action - Technology challenging povertyEuropean Commission - Department for International Development

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