Kente stoles, traditionally woven in West Africa and used for a variety of ceremonial events, are a popular choice among students at college graduation ceremonies. They are worn by graduates to honor the African culture they grew up with and to acknowledge their ancestral experience.
The stoles are made of kente cloth, which is the traditional weaving fabric of Ashanti kingdoms in central Ghana. Kente cloth is woven using threads of gold, green, blue, red and black, with each color representing a different set of values such as serenity, fertility, renewal, and spiritual awareness.
Traditionally, kente stoles have been reserved for royals and kings because they are so precious and expensive to make. Today, kente stoles are commonly woven by a variety of weavers throughout the world, especially in Africa and the United States.
When it comes to kente stoles, the colors and patterns have deep cultural significance for West African peoples and Black Americans alike. Its history dates back centuries to when it was first woven by the Asante people, and is still a central part of Ashanti and African cultural traditions.
In the modern era, kente is more widely produced, and the fabrics are now available at many retailers and online. They are primarily woven in shades of yellow, red, and blue but also have green, purple, and orange versions.
According to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, kente was developed in Ghana and is the most widely known type of woven African textile. It is woven with alternating colors in the warp and weft, which creates complex patterns.
The pattern can be vertically or horizontally oriented, and a weaver can also use patterns in both the warp and weft to make designs that are more intricate. This Who wears kente stoles allows a weaver to produce more complex designs, which are considered richly expressive.
Since the 1990s, colleges and universities have been recognizing students’ academic achievements by gifting them with a Kente stole during their graduation ceremony. Kente stoles are a symbol of pride and dignity for Black graduates who wear them in celebration of their heritage and accomplishments as college graduates.
These stoles are also a meaningful symbol for students who are of other ethnic backgrounds, as it embodies their shared heritage with those who birthed the Kente tradition. The stole can be an important way for a student to identify with their ethnic identity, and is a great tool to help them retain their African wisdom as they travel abroad for higher education.
Some have also accused the Democratic Party leaders who wore kente stoles in 2020 of committing an act of cultural misappropriation by adopting a cherished West African symbol without understanding its meaning. Nevertheless, for others, wearing a Kente stole in support of the Democratic Party was an appropriate and thoughtful gesture of unity with the African American community.
The post from Brandon, however, ignores a much broader cultural significance of kente cloth to the people of Ghana and the African continent at large. It also fails to acknowledge that kente stoles have become an important symbol of pride and dignity for African Americans in the 21st century, as N’Diyea explained to USA TODAY. She rejected the idea that kente symbolized slave traders, arguing instead that the cloth represents “a way to celebrate the ingenuity and creativity of the people who weave them.”