Connecting Patterns

Kente cloth weaver demonstrates his art.

By Gillian Smith ’12

On February 15, the second annual Engaging Communities luncheon, hosted by the Office of Human Resources, was held in Emerson Suites. The event offers opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to experience and engage in conversations about the many different communities and cultures that make up IC.

This year, Dr. Alma Clayton-Pedersen, noted leader in matters of diversity and inclusion, and Chapuchi Ahiagble, master weaver of kente cloth, were invited to introduce the College community to Ghanaian culture.

Clayton-Pedersen, currently vice president of Emeritus Consulting Group, a private consultant group based out of Chicago, spoke at the luncheon about her observations and insights from her years of working in higher education. A former vice president with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, she has 15 years of campus-based experience with projects linking academic excellence and diversity and in engaging students in diverse learning environments.

Meanwhile, Ahiagble set up his loom and a table full of his weavings outside Emerson Suites in the Campus Center to share his story and dazzle passersby with a demonstration of kente cloth weaving.

Kente comes from the word kenten, which means “basket.” The cloth is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of four-inch strips woven in patterns of bright colors, geometric shapes, and bold designs, and sewn together. Ahiagble explained that each color has a symbolic meaning. The red, yellow, green, and black colors of the Ghanaian national flag are especially popular motifs. He also noted that the different patterns have specific names and meanings, symbolizing, for example, concepts like democratic rule, creativity, knowledge from experience, and sharing success with family.

“You cannot have a village without a path or a city without a road,” the weaver said. “These patterns are the paths to the villages and the roads to the cities. It is what connects us and tells our story.”

Ahiagble talked about how each weaving represents a story about the person or persons for which it is made. He said he makes each one from scratch and uses a new pattern.

“Together they make a community,” he told listeners.

See a gallery of photos of Ahhiagble's demonstration here.