The colorful stoles worn by Lowcountry Voices (LCV) members are made from authentic Kente cloth imported from Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti region of Ghana in West Africa. On a recent trip to Ghana, the cloth was selected and procured by Allen Barnhardt, husband of LCV Assistant Director, Sandra Barnhardt. From the cloth, the choir stoles were designed and created by LaVerne Inniss, the Wardrobe Manager for Lowcountry Voices.
Kente cloth first emerged in West Africa during the seventeenth century as the cloth of kings and is deeply intertwined with the history of the Ashanti people and the Ashanti Empire, which was located in what is today Ghana. The Ashanti are members of the modern Akan people who speak the Ashanti dialect. Today, the cloth, while distributed worldwide, is still a traditional ceremonial cloth in Ghana and is hand-woven, by men only, on a horizontal treadle loom.
The term Kente has its roots in “kenten” from the modern Ashanti dialect and means “basket”. It is the most commonly used term today, both inside and outside Ghana. The original Ashanti name of the cloth was “nwontoma” or “nwentoma” which means “woven cloth” and is still used today by Ashanti weavers and elders.
Although similar to many kinds of West African weaving in its basic design, Ashanti Kente cloth is unique in its intricacy and perfection and is easily identified by its dazzling patterns of bright colors, geometric shapes, and bold designs.
Kente cloth is both symbolic and representative of the history of the Ashanti people. The different colors and intricate patterns used in the Lowcountry Voices stoles have traditional meanings:
Black maturation, intensified spiritual energy
Gold royalty, wealth, spiritual purity
Green vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, good health
Maroon the color of mother earth, associated with healing and protection from evil
Red political and spiritual associations, bloodshed, sacrificial rites and death
White purification, sanctification rites, healing
Yellow preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility (yolk of an egg)
Square with its 4 sides -- represents the junction between the earth and the cosmos
Triangle with its three sides -- represents life and family (birth, existence, death & spiritual elevation)
Diamond two triangles upside down -- represents the duality of the monarch: as a chief and as a human -- both destinies as king and man are linked