Following our brief detour at the pottery shed, we set out once again for the village of Tafi Abuife. Nearly everyone in the village — men, women, and children — all contribute to a single trade: weaving kente cloth.
According to our required local tour guide, the village was founded after a group of villagers escaped their tyrannical chieftain by digging a tunnel underneath the village walls. During their escape, the villagers walked backwards and forwent shoes to make tracking them much more difficult. After walking for days, they decided to settle in the forest and determine if they were being followed. However, a giant spider (who wove giant webs) lived there and frightened the settlers. Since it seemed that their old chieftain wouldn’t be able to find them here, they decided to learn to weave and present the spider with cloth as a tribute to overcome their fear. Thus was born the kente cloth weaving village of Tafi Abuife. 🙂 Some very serious fact checking may need to be done on my version of the story.
The region east of Volta Lake (where Tafi Abuife is located) is predominately Ewe, the third largest ethic group in Ghana. In Ewe, the original pronunciation of kente is Ke-te, which translates to the opening and closing of the loom. Once the Asante assimilated the fabric into their culture, the name of the cloth became slightly bastardized to kente.
It’s interesting to see the impact of globalization at work here. As I understand it, all of the local cotton plants were destroyed in a bush fire. In order to continue their trade, cotton is imported from China, dyed in Accra, and then shipped to Tafi Abuife to be woven into kente over the course of many hours. After all of this, it costs about $5 for a two meter length of fabric.