Cloth celebrating Ghanaian independence

A bigger picture

Patterned textiles are an important means of communication in African cultures. They are used, among other things, to assert status, to proclaim identity, to assert allegiance and to commemorate events. In West Africa there are traditions of wax prints, which are quite expensive to produce, and fancy printed cottons, which are much cheaper. The latter are widely used in Ghana as a means of mass communication as the process can respond quickly to national events. Kente cloth is woven in strips and sewn together. Each pattern has significance in its colour and design. Kente cloth was historically worn by kings but is often now adopted to express pride in African heritage. In East Africa, in Tanzania and Kenya, kitenge and kangas worn by women, and sometimes men, are often decorated with proverbs in Swahili or, more rarely, political slogans.

Queen Elizabeth’s visit


Cloth commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Nigeria in 1956. Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.

See more See more: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3003241&partId=1&people=183290&peoA=183290-3-9&page=1

Woman's dress


Made of fancy printed cotton to commemorate the visit of Barack Obama to Ghana in AD 2009.

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Wall hanging


A wall-hanging from Mali with a design dedicated to Barack Obama; early AD 2000s

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From Tanzania commemorating Barack Obama’s election as President of the USA; AD 2008.

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AIDS kanga


Kanga from Tanzania declaring war on AIDS; AD 2002.

See more See more: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1401640&partId=1&searchText=kanga&images=on&page=1
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Cloth celebrating Ghanaian independence