Knitted on busy looms at Bonwire, Anyako, Adanwomase and other towns in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin, kente is popular for the baroque patterns consisting of geometric shapes, culturally symbolic motifs, and cheerful flair, fused from silk yarns and cotton fabric. Accra is one the best places to shop for unique or trendy tailored dresses, tops, pants, accessories or whole kente fabric.
The Akans also call kente nwentoma, to underline how strips come together in a layered weaving process. Ghana has become synonymous with its highlife music, soccer, jollof rice and more, but kente stands out as the country’s official regalia, as a symbol of pride and meaning. When Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and presidents who followed, took their oaths of office, kente was prominent, as seen canvassing ethnic kings. Individuals and organizations from the world over are attracted to kente for personal use, gifts, and fashion. The following places in Accra are significant kente havens.
The largest market in Accra is known for unbeatable prices and varieties of kente. Either for bulk or singular purchase, one can browse the busy labyrinths where loads of shops and mildly haggling hawkers sell the colourful yarns.
Madina market is less chaotic than Makola, but is just as much a sprawling space of stalls, shops, and street vendors selling kente. Like many large Accra markets, it’s an important transport hub, which comes with bustling crowds, but comb through and you’ll surely find some rare patterns with riots of colour and embedded Adinkra.
Extravagant with all sorts of colourful and nice-smelling food, household products, herbal medicine, second hand clothes, a mechanic shop, petty traders, and is known for heaving crowds especially on the sidewalks by the main roads. A smaller-sized Makola in all aspects, and less chaotic. Kente, wax prints and beads are sold in bulk or small packages at Madina market. Madina is a suburb of Accra in south-eastern Ghana, just north of the University of Ghana.
Kente fashion vendors at Accra Art Centre are part of the Handicraft Association, which aims to promote original, locally-made goods in the country. Best to check from different stalls before you make your purchase of kente treasures for affordable pricing and quality.
Along the seafront near Black Star Square is the biggest market for artefact shops, handmade drum, xylophone, kora, kologo and other instrument stalls, as well as clothes and bead shops. The Art Centre is where you can find affordable carvings, baskets, bags, kente, tie-dye and wax fabrics, sandals, sculptures, stools, rugs, and rare antiques in all shapes and sizes, and even custom made in just the way you want.
Kaneshie market can be bustling, hot, humidly bursting with all the typical Ghana market smells and sounds, but if you’re in for some kente gems, already cut out and sewn into beautiful dresses or custom made by resident tailors and seamstresses, you’ll be grateful you visited.
Built in the 1970s, Kaneshi Market is a large three-storey trading centre on the road leading west out of Accra in Kaneshie. Kaneshie – meaning ‘under the lamp’, referring to its former status as a place for night trading – is a vibrant community and business suburb of Greater Accra, Ghana. Like all the other community markets, the design of Kaneshie is basically the same: open-air facility lined with stalls and several entry and exit points. Foodstuffs, vegetables, meat, and fish sellers can be mostly found on the ground floor, while fabrics, footwear, hardware, vehicle parts and household utility shops are sprinkled everywhere.
Osu‘s Oxford Street and its surrounding lanes have a number of fabric shops with superb kente selections. One can order some good quality, ready-made clothes, or have several made in a short period of time. Most of the vendors here practise good customer service, but one must be careful about fake weaves on the market. When handling a fabric that’s very thin and can easily tear, you’re handling a Chinese knockoff of a local design.
For the love of bold palettes of vivid textures synthesised into modern and traditional fashion, Accra has several shops in its vicinities where kente can be bought. Visit the following shops for your ceremonial and authentic handwoven gems: Rose Fabrics, Kente Haven, Kente Hemaa and Kente Hub.