The Symbolism Behind Stunning African Patterns

bystander in a kente patterned shirt

A major form of expression, African patterns are popular as a means of personal adornment and a medium of communication. These exquisite textiles give wearers and admirers insight into social, religious, and political African contexts in an abstract and approachable way. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the meaning behind common African patterns.

1. Kuba Cloth

A popular African pattern produced by the Kuba people of Congo, Kuba cloth is hand-cut using leaves from the Raffia tree. It is then dyed with indigo and mud and weaved into strips using an intricate embroidery technique. The process of creating Kuba cloth is a time-consuming one, with each fabric being unique from another. Unique only to a few sub-groups within the Kuba tribe, each garment holds a significant meaning.

2. Mudcloth/Bogolanfini

Similar to the way Kuba cloth is manufactured, mudcloth or bogolanfini is created by weaving cloth and color together. Made with a form of fermented mud, this pattern is commonly worn by hunters as camouflage and a badge of status for ritual protection.

Culturally, women are wrapped in this fabric following childbirth as an initiation into adulthood. It is traditionally believed to ward off dangerous spirits. Significant to Bambara mythology, bogolanfini fabrics hold great historic and cultural relevance. They were frequently worn during the battle of the Malian and the French. Since then, it’s become a primary mainstay for the Malian population.

3. Kente Cloth

A long and vibrant cloth, Kente is appropriate for both male and female wearers. Color variations will depend on the wearer’s tribe. Normally brightly colored, Kente cloth varies in religious or political motifs. Color patterns are especially significant.

African Textile Colors

Due to the amount of time and effort required to produce a single African garment, a lot of meaning and spirituality is attached to every piece. To differentiate between tribes, African fabrics don different colors with various meanings:

  • White, which symbolizes spirituality and purity. It is rarely worn as the color is reserved for the purest of tribesmen.
  • Gold, which represents wealth and fertility, worn primarily by those hoping to achieve prosperity.
  • Green, which also represents prosperity, but isn’t as commonly worn as gold. It, too, is a medicinal color that indicates health.
  • Red, the color of blood, which is representative of political troubles or spiritual tensions.
  • Blue, the most harmonious of all colors and representative of love and peace. It also reflects the earth, sky, and water.

Conclusion

If it wasn’t already obvious, there is always more than meets the eye when it comes to shopping for African textiles. While the majority of African fabrics don a natural color palette that is easy to pair with other pieces, knowing the significance behind them can truly impact your get-up. African fashion is always a step ahead, elevating any outfit with remarkable symbolism and historical essence.

Introducing brand-new African designs into our collection, Veer Active is rich in premium athletic wear that breaks cultural barriers. Entirely black-owned, we proudly cater to buyers of all backgrounds, donating a portion of your purchases to thoughtfully-selected non-profit organizations across the country.