A Visit To Ghana
(Jeremy Pool, Graduate Student, Emory University)
Memories of kente punctuate my memories of my time in Ghana as an undergraduate student. Ghanaians are generally proud of their traditions and eager to teach visitors about them. They are especially proud of kente and I was given quite a few impromptu lectures on the artistry of kente, the meanings embedded in its patterns, and its value, both with Ghana and as a cultural export. I remember seeing the mass of ahene and mpanyinfo (chiefs and elders) decked out in kente when we attended the Akwasidae festival at Manhyia, the Asante palace. I also remember watching African-American tv shows, a staple of GBC programming, and hearing my host-sisters remark on the decorative use of kente on show like "Hanging with Mr. Cooper."
What I remember most about kente were the times when I was given it as a gift. My host-family in Accra gave me a quarter-cloth to give to my mother, in recognition for some gifts that she had sent. I was given a beautiful blue, yellow and red stole (single strip) by a kente weaver who had met my friend Cindi while she was taking dance classes at the Kumasi Arts Center. He had offered to show her his village and I was invited to come along. He didn't know either of us very well, and never tried to get anything from us in return. He was simply showing the remarkable hospitality that Ghanians often do. Finally, I was given a black and gold stole with the familiar sika dua (golden stool) pattern on it at a small durbar marking the end of our group's week-long stay in a village north of Kumasi called Darko. We were there, supposedly, to assist in a community building project, though I'm not sure if the labor we actually provided even came close to compensating for the bother of providing us with housing. While the people of Darko probably got some pleasant distraction from our visit, we certainly gained a lot more through our interactions with them. In general my memories of kente underline memories of the generosity and cultural pride of Ghanaians that helped to make my time there sweet.