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First festival on African kente to be held in Hamburg

Festival on history and significance of African kente cloth - visit by Ghana's Ministry of Culture and Tourism

The International Kente Festival 2017 gets underway in Hamburg from August 25-27 for the first time. The brightly coloured, banded material originated in Ghana and is now available worldwide. The colours, weave, patterns and decorations are highly symbolic and give insight into globalisation. In the pasts, only kings and priests were allowed to wear kente for ceremonial purposes.

Exhibition, workshops and fashion show

Events will be held in the “Museum of Arts and Crafts”, the refectory of the University of Hamburg and in the Kulturhof Dulsberg under the motto “Connecting cultures – celebrating diversity!” The programme also includes keynotes on the history and manufacture of kente, an exhibition, workshops, a fashion show and the coronations of the king and queen of kente. Dr. Hans-Heinrich Bethge, Senate Director of the Ministry of Culture and Media will give a welcoming speech and open the grand ceremony.

Hamburg – hotspot of cultures

Jana Schiedek, State Councillor, noted: “The port city of Hamburg has always been marked by diverse, cultural influences. People from different countries and cultural backgrounds with hardly knowledge of each other have met and continue to meet here. The kente festival presents garments from private collections and will make this cultural treasure trove accessible to residents of Hamburg for the first time and show how colourful and enriching diversity can be.”

Transcultural product

Kente is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and was first woven in Bonwire, current-day Ghana, over 375 years ago and originally in black and white only. At first, kente was made from bark, but more colours were eventually reaped from seeds. Europe influence eventually led to the inclusion of industrially-produced colours.

Cotton from Ghana, silk from Asia and industrial colours from Europe mean kente is now a transcultural product marked by trade relations and colonialism and the centuries-old relationship between Europe, Africa and Asia. Nowadays, kente features on catwalks from Paris to New York and as typical African souvenirs.

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