Spectacles of Kente Splendor
Marcia Rafig, Manager Classic Fair Catering
The '60s was a time when African-Americans were really discovering their roots -- for many years we hadn't embraced and didn't know a lot about our roots. Then through movies like Roots, and through a lot of research, and the Black Power movement and things like that, we learned about them. I saw kente here and there during that time. I remember I was really fascinated when Kwame Nkrumah came to the US. I remember seeing pictures of him and his kente and just found it fascinating. Then in 1971 my family was fortunate to be sent to live and work in Ghana, in Accra. That's when it really hit me how wonderful kente was and how historic it was and what it meant.
When we lived in Ghana, I really saw kente in all its splendor on two occasions. And I'll probably never, ever, ever, ever see it again like that. One was after one of the subchiefs died in Kumasi. We were in Kumasi when the funeral was celebrated, about a year later. And there were kente cloths and there were hundreds and hundreds of people because it is such a big deal. They came out to this funeral and there were cloths that I had never seen. Robin's egg blue and pinks and greens that I know were only brought out for special occasions. And it was like I knew in my heart that I would never see this again. I didn't have a camera and I didn't take pictures because it was a funeral. All I could do was stand there and just take it all in, because I knew this would never happen again.
But it did happen again for me. The second time that this spectacle of color and heritage and pride came out, I was in Accra, Ghana when Kwame Nkrumah's body came back to Ghana after he had been living in exile. His body was laying in state in State House and people came out wearing their kente cloth in honor of him. And once again I saw the treasured antique patterns that are not woven anymore. It was a feast for the eyes and for the heart and I just stood there all aglow, I mean literally aglow, watching this spectacle. It was just unbelievable.