Meet Gideon, the Kente Cloth weaver

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Kente Weaver

Kente is woven into the identity of some Ghanaians. While we have talked at length about the cloth itself and its origin, little is said about the Kente weavers who are always men, contrary to other countries like Nigeria where women weave as well. So we reached out to Gideon Gamado of Bigdreadkente to learn more about how one becomes a Kente Weaver.

Gideon, what is your background?

I was born and raised in Agbozume, a small village in the Volta-Region, close to the Togo-border. This village is famous for its weavers and this is where I buy my threads and sometimes bring my Kente to the market.

Through the years, I have been weaving on and off. In October 2015, I started my own company, Bigdreadkente. I moved from Accra to Kedzi, a small village at the seaside in the Volta Region. I built an outdoor workshop, where I am currently working with two weavers. Every once in a while I will have other weavers do a job for me. So I am trying hard to build my own team and make Bigdreadkente grow.

How long does it take to become a weaver?

It takes years to become a master weaver. I started learning as a 10 year old. My granddad was my master. Weaving is a very complicated craft and as an apprentice you start by rolling thread. The way of teaching and learning is very different from what Europeans are used to. In Ghana, you learn by watching. You don’t ask too many questions because that would be considered rude. The teacher won’t give much oral instruction. So you just sit and watch and then start trying yourself. You don’t get much feedback; you have to discover and correct your mistakes by yourself.

A weaver will finally be able to do everything by himself: he can make his own loom, face the thread (often very complicated because the design will come out depending on how you faced the thread), and do all the preparations before you can finally start weaving. He will be able to create the most difficult designs and figures and even weave words. The latter is done upside down and in mirror view. Madly complicated!

So, yes, it takes years! 

Kente Cloth being woven
Image courtesy of bigdreadkente

How long does it take to make a Kente Cloth?

Depending on measurements but mostly the design, it can take between 3 days to a month. You can create a design by how the thread is faced and then the weaving is an easy job. But when the design consists of different complicated figures and different colors the weaving is very time consuming. 

What was the most difficult pattern you made?

Kente difficult Pattern in the making
Picture courtesy of Bigdreadkente

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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2 thoughts on “Meet Gideon, the Kente Cloth weaver

  1. Thank you Hanou to have chosen Bigdreadkente to write about kentecloth. It was a pleasure talking to you and the outcome of our talks is very nice.
    Have to correct you on one thing though: there are female weavers, not many but the few you see are the best 😊.
    Thanks again and keep up the good work!
    Gideon & Julia

    1. Thank you Julia & Gideon for your input. Also thank you for clarifying the role of Female Kente weavers… that could make a nice feature for the blog.

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