Kente Cloth from Ghana

The center piece of my current exhibition in Siauliai, Lithuania is a diptych Kente Cloth from Ghana. I get many questions about these quilts and I decided to tell their story in a separate post.

It started with me getting to know Nancy Hudson who is my FB friend now. Nancy is a senior pastor at Oasis of Love Church, Shippensburg, PA. Nancy told me that her church has an educational center in Ghana, Africa: Oasis International Training Center

Since its  opening for classes in 2002, the Training Centre has offered classes in academic, Biblical, and vocational studies. It educates children as well as adults. It has always been their goal to help African people raise their standard of living by gaining skills and abilities through the curriculum that is taught.

Nancy told me, that every time she goes on a mission to Ghana to work at the Center (she does this once or twice every year), she brings back pieces of  fabric made in Ghana. Some of them are hand made batiks and other are commercial fabrics. Global Mamas sew different cloth items from them and sell them online.

Nancy wanted me to make one or two large quilts to be put on a wall in the foyer of the Centre, that way women could see that fabrics may be used not only to make clothes but also to make art. I was happy Nancy asked me, I felt like I was called on a mission. Nancy offered to pay me but I said I would take no money. I wanted to be a part of their effort to make this world a better place.

First of all Nancy had to send me fabrics and she did through my friend Linda who was getting ready to ship a parcel to me anyway.

When the fabrics arrived, even I saw photo of them before, I realized they were not quilters fabrics, they were fabrics for making clothing:

Large prints, most of the fabrics of medium value- how am I going to cut them into pieces? How am I going to put them back in quilt blocks?

Looking at these fabrics I knew I wouldn’t be able to cut details that would be of the same color.

An amazing piece of hand made batik was one that would loose all the beauty if I cut it into pieces:

I knew from even before the beginning of work this fabric would be the main fabric of my quilt.

But first of all I needed to come up with a design and started researching Ghanaian textiles. I found out that just like in any other society, cloth or textiles are part of every day life. There are few kinds of textiles that represent Ghana and the most important are hand woven traditional textiles (Kente), hand printed traditional textiles (Adinkra) and wax resist local fabrics (batiks).

I realized that for my projects using traditional Kente cloth patterns would be the best. I also could see some resemblances with traditional Baltic patterns used in weaving. Look at this:

Kente cloth was develoed by the Akan people of West Africa. Many of Akan live in Ghana and Ivory Coast today. Traditionally the cloths were for sacred and royal occassions. They feature bold designs and bright colors, each of which bears meaning. For example, black signifies maturity and strong spiritual energy.

Usually I don’t design my quilts on paper. I only do so if I need to figure out how to technically put pieces together, how to construct blocks or the entire quilt. So I made few drawings:

I made few blocks that I didn’t like at all. They were too large and there was not enough contrast:

Instead I added some of my own solids and made details smaller. I started making blocks:

Where did the orange fabric came from? From this piece:

I had no use for white squares with dark circles so I cut the fabric up this way:

I only used the orange squares to cut into smaller squares, the rest was this:

It went to my scrap box where is waiting to be used in some other project.

The next few photos will show how the quilt developed on my design wall:

Finally I had a quilt top finished. The size was 175cm x 125 cm (approximately  70”x 50”) I had enough fabric for another quilt and Nancy told me they could easily accommodate two large quilts on a foyer wall. So I got busy again. I knew the other quilt couldn’t be exactly the same but also it couldn’t be too much different. I wanted two quilts to speak to each other.

That’s how the second quilt developed on my design wall:

Finally I had a finished second top:

  Quilting always has been my favorite part of quiltmaking. These are few images of quilting:


Of course, both sides were checked and approved by Albinas, my studio manager:

I used remnants of fabrics for quilt backs

Now you can see both quilts next to each other:

Do you think they talk to each other?

I have a silly hope that I would deliver these quilts to Ghana myself. Wish me luck!

If you got to this point, I thank you for your patience reading this long post.

Comments

  1. Žaviuosi tavo dizainu ir spalvomis. Puikiai panaudojai audinius. Taip, jie kalbasi tarp savęs, jie dabar skiautiniai dvyniai.

  2. Nancy A, Hudson says:

    Absolutely brilliant! So excited to share this again with everyone. I am working on my schedule Martye, I will have dates to you soon. Your friend, Nancy

  3. They are beautiful and I love how the design came about! You are so talented and I am anxious to see them at the Training Centre!

  4. Denise M. Whitaker says:

    You are a genius, Maryte! Thank you for walking us through your creative process. It is mesmerizing! I hope you will get your wish to deliver these beauties to Ghana yourself.

  5. Thank you, Denise! I am happy you like my work. I am not a genius but this was an amazing journey and I was surprised by the result myself.

  6. Chris Setzer says:

    They are stunning and ” speak” volumes. Magnificent job.

  7. Danute Blaziene says:

    Labai sauniai panaudotos medziagos, islaikytas tradiciskumas. Gilus darbai savo mintimi ir labai profesionalus; Zaviuosi Jusu kuryba, o Jus vis nustebinate. Kuo didziausios sekmes!

  8. Nancy Schale says:

    The quilts are absolutely gorgeous! The detail is mind boggling, you did a lovely job! I hope to see them at the Training Centre in Ghana one day. Praying all will work in your favor to travel to Ghana and experience all that is happening at the Training Centre.

  9. Thank you, Nancy! I hope you all at the Centre will like these quilts when they arrive. Looks like I am coming sooner than I even expected.

  10. My Gosh Maryte. I am so impressed. Great explanation and perfect use of English. I am so proud to call you my little sister in law. God bless you on your journey.

  11. Meryl Schneider says:

    Such beautiful quilts! Thank you for sharing this inspiring story.Have a wonderful journey!

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