The kente cloth, known as ‘’nwentoma’’ in Akan, is a type of cloth made from silk and cotton fabric, interwoven into strips and is native to the Akan ethnic group of southern Ghana. The cloth originates from the Ashanti Kingdom, and has been adopted by the people of La Cote d’Ivoire and many other West African countries.
Mention kente in Ghana and two towns readily come to mind: Bonwire and Adanwomase.
Though the two towns are not far from each other, they are located in two different districts in the Ashanti Region and have rivaled each other over which of the two possess the skill and prowess to weave the best kente in the country.
Though Bonwire is more popular and a known area for kente weaving, probably because the name has been used in the lyrics, Adanwomase is another town which also prides itself to be the best. It is the trade of almost the entire community.
Adanwomase is located in the Kwabre East District and is about 27 kilometres northeast of Kumasi with about 5,500 residents. It is situated about six kilometres away from Ntonso, another town within the Kwabre East district known for its ‘Adinkra’.
Aside farming, the main occupation of the residents is kente weaving; a skill that most of the residents say is innate and only needs polishing from the professionals.
As such, it is commonplace to find even children weaving the most popular African textile at Adanwomase.
Ghana is known for its rich traditional kente cloth which has become synonymous with the country and the country’s traditional rulers, particularly those from the southern part, have always displayed this rich national asset during festivals. It is their official regalia.
The cloth is a source of pride to its owners as it demonstrates one’s position and status in the community depending on the type worn.
Past presidents of Ghana have also lent credence to this by adorning themselves with the cloth during national programmes such as their inauguration.
Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr Abrefa Busia, former presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor, all used the kente when they took their oath of office.
The skills of the people of Adanwomase in kente weaving has attracted the attention of both domestic and foreign tourists who visit the town to learn more about how the cloth is woven and to also buy some for their personal use and as presents for loved ones.
As part of plans to promote tourism in the town and generate revenue from it, the community set up the Adanwomase Tourism Management Team (ATMT) to manage the Adanwomase Tourism Development Project aimed at co-ordinating all tourism activities in the area.
Through the support of a Peace Corps volunteer, the community began what is now known as a community-based eco-tourism aimed at raising the standard of living of the people.
This was to co-ordinate the activities of the tourists and better organise them. Previously, tourists just walked around the town and had no one to take them around the place.
However, following the establishment of the Adanwomase Tourism Development Project, tourists now have the option to learn about the whole kente weaving process and the town as well with the aid of well-trained tour guides.
Established in 2004, the Adanwomase Tourism Development Project has been able to raise enough revenue to put up an 18-bedroom facility to provide accommodation for teachers posted to the town. The funding for this project was raised from the fees charged the tourists who visited the place.
Hitherto, most of the teachers posted to the area stayed outside the community and this affected the quality of education.
The team has also been able to build a community library where the pupils go to study, thus making it possible for the schoolchildren to have a place they can comfortably study. This has improved the standard of education in the area.
The management team hopes to establish a Kente Museum at the centre where students from both Ghana and outside the country could come and research in the Ashanti kente cloth and African textiles as well.
Eric Boakye Yiadom, Secretary to the ATMT said management also intended to set up a scholarship scheme to sponsor brilliant, needy students from the community to pursue their education through the revenue from tourism.
“We want to protect and have patent rights for our kente designs so that the Chinese will not duplicate the kente designs that we have created,” he said.
The team also wants to establish a kente weaving institution where the youth from the communities and other areas willing to learn the trade can learn the skill of weaving kente.
This, he said, would cut down on the rural-urban migration and also equip the youth with skills that could make them earn a decent living.
To make their work easier and well-co-ordinated, the district assembly has built a centre for the weavers where they can work even during the rains. It is also to provide the weavers with a more convenient environment where they could ply their trade without any hindrance.
According to the ATMT, most of the youth could hardly afford the initial investment to start their own business and that a financial scheme could be set up solely for people in the industry, particularly the youth to access “a sort of soft loan for the youth to expand their businesses.”
Besides the financial challenges, the road to the centre is also in bad shape and will need to be tarred to make access easier for tourists.
The place also has no accommodation for guests who would want to spend the night there. Though the ATMT has acquired a plot to put up a guest house, it lacks the financial wherewithal to accomplish it.
“We, therefore, wish that the Minister of Tourism and Creative Arts would introduce this project to the donor community to support us. We are ready to use communal labour and local artisans to support it ,” Mr Yiadom said.