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To create this wrapper, 26 strips of vivid green silk were woven eight centimetres wide, and sewn together side by side. Blocks of plain weave alternate with blocks of stripes to form an allover checkerboard pattern. Between the sets of stripes, inlaid symbols that are given names such as “empty gunpowder keg” and “broken pot” add additional layers of pattern and meaning.

Where was this textile created?

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Africa: West Africa, Ghana; Asante people
1920 - 1950
Silk, strip woven
332 cm x 183 cm
Gift of Dr. Peter Herschman
T84.0012 Textile Museum of Canada

In Ghana, men weave narrow strips of cloth to create “wrappers”, such as this one. There are more than 170 different patterns in this wrapper with no exact repeats. The patterns are full of meaning for the Asante people and most refer to parables that illustrate “right” behaviour. The warp pattern for this wrapper gives it the name “liar’s cloth,” because the King wears it when rendering judgment about who is telling the truth and who is lying.

Cloth woven by the Asante and Ewe people in Ghana is called kente, from the Fanti word for baskets, which were once used to carry the cloths to coastal markets. In the late 20th century, bright-coloured and bold-patterned kente cloth became a symbol of pride for people of African descent.

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