The beauty and cultural significance of African textile art

Africa is a continent with so much culture to offer the rest of the world, ranging from music to food to fashion. When it comes to fashion, the main example is textiles. The style of these textiles is according to the region from where they come from. These textiles have a very important history. African countries can maintain this tradition by passing on the methods to younger generations and talking to them about their cultural importance.


An example of a regional style of textile is the Bogolan Cloth. This style comes from Mali and is made out of cotton. The patterns on the cloth are designed by using a piece of metal which uses fermented mud as paint. The background is painted with the mud and the pattern is untouched. The mud reacts with the sun, giving the fabric a beautiful design with various shades of brown.

The Kente Cloth is the traditional textile of the Ashanti people of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. It is a cloth that is normally worn by nobles, but is now worn by all kinds of people. The different colours and shapes in the design carry a different meaning according to each cloth. White, for example, represents spirituality and the square represents the universe.

The Adinkra Cloth is made by both the Ashantis of Ghana and the Baoulés of Côte d’Ivoire. The design on the fabric is hand-printed. The stamps are handmade and the ink is made of a mixture of iron slag and tree bark. Each symbol has a special meaning. Heart shaped symbols (Sankofa) mean that we can learn from our past mistakes. The moon and the stars (Osrane Ne Nsoroma) are symbols for faithfulness.


Depending on the type of textile, the cloth can mean different things. It can be designed for weddings, some for funerals and some to show somebody’s social status. The Kente Cloth originally was only worn by royals and it was made with expensive gold threads. A certain type of cloth is worn during special moments in a person’s life, like when a boy goes hunting for the first time. The cloth is then a reminder of important moments in that person’s life. It is useful for both a person’s history but also the tribe’s history. The patterns, for example, can refer to an important moment in a community’s history. Some Bogolan Cloths have drawings of battles or of mythological creatures. This shows that African textiles are essential because they contain stories of people’s lives that can be passed on, simply by wearing the garment.

Traditional African textiles reflect the rich history of different African tribes. It is important that these textiles remain a big part of African communities because it is part of their identity. This means that the skills required for making these fabrics need to be taught to the younger generations so that they can appreciate their traditions.



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