Symbols and Color in African Clothing

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Africa is a continent rich with diverse languages and people groups. The clothing styles of many African countries have a rich history going back thousands of years. These days you can see African-Americans choosing to enhance their style and celebrate their heritage by donning these garments. The designs of the clothes are one reflection of African culture, but the colors and symbols that decorate them are also important to understand.

African clothes that are made of the combined colors of red, gold and green represent the colors of the stripes of the Ethiopian flag. Also, black, green and gold combinations represent the colors of the African National Congress’ flag. Kente cloth is known for its brilliant colors and designs and this cloth is frequently seen as a symbol of the African continent.

The Fulani women wear bright flowing robe-like garments and gold hoop earrings to mark their style and their region. In each region of Africa, the style and colors of garments are a reflection of whom you are and where you are from. For instance, in certain parts of Nigeria, red is seen as a threatening color which can only be worn by chiefs. The color is believed to keep evil away. In other regions, red is the color of achievement or success. Adinkra cloth is worn typically at funerals and farewells. Dark colored adinkra cloth in brick red, brown or black symbolizes death. Alternately, bright colored adinkra cloth in white, yellow or blue is worn for festive or happy occasions. Adinkra cloth is still very popular in Ghana today.

Kente cloth made by the Fante of Ghana has many different designs and colors with various meanings. Red is the symbol of bloodshed and is frequently worn for political meetings and rallies. Green represents fertility and you can see it worn often during a young girl’s adolescence. White symbolizes purity or victory. Yellow represents maturity or glory and chiefs frequently wear this color. Blue symbolizes love, and black represents aging.

Knowing the symbolic meanings of color and design in African clothing helps one to have a greater sense of the culture and the rich history of the African styles that one can find today. Whatever your ethnic heritage may be, you can find an African style that reflects your identity and your good taste too. There are a lot of choices, but the variety and the quality are there for you, so enjoy.

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