The Kenteverse is a multifaceted Art, Design & Music project exploring Kente’s innate power to create. I’m primarily using sounds sampled from the loom during the weaving process to generate new Kente designs and experiences.

When I started this project, I thought I was merely observing and dissecting the anatomy of Kente. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was peering into a whole universe, The Kenteverse. Sound & Rhythm drove me here, and they’ve been my main points of contact in understanding the numerous locations within this universe. Language, History & Fashion are just some of the areas I’ve gained access to during my time here.

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Pathways of Art

In 2022 I was invited by Sarah Csernay to share the Kenteverse in a current exhibition, Pathways of Art, by the Museum Rietberg in Zurich. The exhibition is focusing on the ways in which the ‘objects’ came into the collection. 

I spoke briefly about the Kenteverse and my initial interaction with Kente as well as the project. 

If you’re in Zurich you can see this exhibition until 24/MAR/24
November 12 2022

Back In Ghana

I had to trip back to Ghana to work on some more experiments and fulfill some aspects of the Kenteverse. I was keen on finishing up some experiments I had started and also working on some new ones.

I took the beat cloth designs I experimented with and worked on them with Mandela and Aminu –– the two main weavers I work with on this project. I was eager to see if this experiment made was possible at all and if it even made sense.

Another experiment I wanted to do was to use the loom as an instrument. I wanted to create a situation where the weaver used the loom to back an artist, Pure Akan, while he spontaneously freestyled. Upon speaking with both weavers about this experiment, I got two very different answers. Mandela told me it would be a complex experiment. However, he was willing to try it out. On the other hand, Aminu felt like it’d be a pretty easy experiment, So we pinned the date and scheduled the time and place for the experiment.

The motif library was another sub-project I wanted to see come to life. I wanted to work with the weavers in building this library that once kind of existed. So, I kickstarted this project with both weavers, and we are currently developing and creating new motifs.
July 12 2021

Experiment: Beat Cloths

Woking closely with the weavers made me realize that some things need time to reach their full potential. Kente is one of those things. It requires a deliberate pace and intentionality. When I started this project, I realized how the speed amongst different weavers varied. Some weavers were extremely fast, and others were moderately paced. Their varying speeds ultimately did not change what the cloth looked like; neither did it always point to how long someone had been weaving. For me, what I realized was how the speed changed the weaving sounds. Different tempos created different rhythms but gave the same output. This was extremely fascinating. I believed that the weaving sounds possessed some innate power that could be investigated and used to make new designs.

Focusing mainly on this meant I had to dive deeper to understand further the Kente cloth's significance, conception, and life cycle. While on this journey, I uncovered many new things, although this cloth has been a part of my life ever since I was a child. My explorations thus far led me to concentrate on three main things that every weaver deals with –– Context, Materiality, and Technique. By further breaking down these categories, I gained more insights into the meaning of this cloth. All these three categories directly affected any given new Kente design, and within each category, you could see its direct effect. For instance, a weaver, going through some hardships, may want to design a cloth that speaks to that experience. This then tests his technique because he may want to design and depict some motifs that closely refer to specific things he's experiencing. Only then can he interact with materiality and start weaving this cloth.

After going through this process with different master weavers, it became clear how intentionality and deliberation are vital to the cloth's success. So in a way, this was contradictory to my initial goal of repurposing the weaving sounds to make new designs because it was not very helpful in furthering the cloth. My initial goal rids the cloth of specific vital components that make the cloth what it is. Although I had a holistic view of the Kente lifecycle, I focused on creating more designs and the rapid production of more designs and not really maintaining the cloth's integrity. Like many developments nowadays, instant results and speed became my measure of success for making new designs. Knowing this prompted me to adjust my process and work on a couple of experiments with a new strategy.

Still maintaining the weaving sounds as my driver for coming up with new designs, I explored the idea of coming up with intentional beats to inform semi-intentional designs.' Semi' because I used the beat sequence patterns as my basis for the designs. I focused on specific elements that make the kente design what it is –– elements like color, repetition, grids, and motifs. With this experiment, I had two main categories –– designs made to be woven and designs made for prints. I made these two distinctions because I wanted to try out designs that would use photos and help extend the life of the music it was based on. As a woven cloth, this will still work, but when worn as a garment, the meaning totally changes.

I sampled and made the music with the Akai MPC Live, and I used the MPC Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to view my sequences. This is also what I based my designs on because it is what I made the music with. Here I focused on building a language that the weavers could translate to use within the Kente loom. To build this coherence, I analyzed the sequence view and started translating certain aspects of the music to make it 'weavable'.

First, I used the stole dimensions (5” x 72”) as the basis on which I built all the other elements. From here, I could now assign meaning to every element. My time signature most of the time was 4/4, and this made it easy to make every beat in a bar equivalent to a stole. This further meant that every 5 inches (Kente stole width) equaled a beat in a bar; hence every bar was equivalent to 4 stoles. This also meant that the number of tracks determined how long the stole would be. So, if I had 30 tracks, this meant the stole would be 30 inches long. With this in mind, I could now directly and intentionally make music that could be woven using a Kente loom.
June 02 2021

Every Beat In A Bar = 1 Stole

Full Beat Cloth

Full Beat Cloth 2

Full Beat Cloth 3

Motifs As Beats In A Bar

Full Beat Cloth With Motifs

New Loom Samples & Tracks

I worked on some unorthodox sound patterns by focusing only on what the pattern looked like. This experiment gave me some pretty interesting results and also, at certain moments shocked me quite a lot.
May 29 2021

Experiment: Step Sequenced Patterns 2

I worked on some unorthodox sound patterns by focusing only on what the pattern looked like. This experiment gave me some pretty interesting results and also, at certain moments shocked me quite a lot.
May 27 2021