K243 - This huge and elaborate cloth is a superb example of the highest quality of Asante kente weaving dating from around 1960, woven from rayon rather than silk. If most rayon kente cloths are in my view rather banal low quality designs hastily woven in repetitive standard patterns this one is a dramatic exception. Senior Asante kings were by long tradition expected to wear new and spectacular cloths at important ceremonial occasions throughout the year, and it was informed and critical patronage by these kings and senior chiefs that stimulated the continual refinement and elaboration of kente cloth design throughout the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century. However by the time this cloth was woven, which I would estimate to be in the 1960s, such informed patronage was very much an exception and as a result very few cloths of this standard were woven.
We can see that the weaver has paid careful attention both to the overall design structure of the cloth (through careful control of layout, borders, and undecorated blocks) and to pattern variation within the decorated sections. The only other rayon kente that I am aware of with similar qualities is in the collection of the Field Museum in Chicago and was shown on the cover of the exhibition catalogue Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity (edited by Doran Ross, Fowler Museum Los Angeles, 1998.) This cloth belonged to and was presumably worn by one of the most senior Asante kings. Condition excellent, complete with no stains, repairs. Age estimated circa 1960. Measurements: 143 ins x 87, 364cm x 222cm.
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