The Spider Weaver
A Legend of the Kente Cloth
by Margaret Musgrove
illustrated by Julia Cairns
The Blue Sky Press
(an Imprint of Scholastic Inc.)
Anyone who has laid eyes on the striking pattern of fabric known worldwide as the Kente (ken-tee) cloth, interwoven with brightly colored strips, cannot easily forget it. Kente cloth is native to the Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast.
How did this wonderful kente cloth come about? Legend has it that long long time ago, a spider created an intricate and elegant web that inspired the weavers to emulate the beauty and create a unique fabric fit for royalty.
Nana Koragu and Nana Ameyaw were skilled weavers who mostly wove nwen-ntoma (nnwen-un-toe-ma) - a simple cloth - that everyone from kings to the common people wore. Late one night, while returning home with their catch, they happened upon something that seemed like a small miracle: a spider web with such wondrous design that has never been seen.
The story goes on to tell us how Ameyaw and Koragu watch the Master Web Weaver - a lovely large yellow-and-black spider - in awe, as the spider shows them a special dance that is both regal and graceful, teaching them, inspiring them to create their own weave.
Ameyaw and Koragu, excited about this gift from the spider, redesign their looms, dye the threads in bright colors and develop many new patterns, naming the new woven cloth kente-nwen-ntoma, now known simply as kente cloth.
The illustrations are bursting with color much like the kente cloth, showing scenes from the village life - a nursing goat, a playing child, women pounding on the mortar/pestle, a calabash filled with water... as well as showcasing the lush vegetation of the nearby forest with the monkeys watching from the trees and elephants foraging peacefully...
While the book doesn't elaborate upon actual process of kente cloth weaving per se, there is an interesting description of the origins, as well as the significance of the specific patterns used in contemporary kente cloths. The afterword offers a simple pronunciation guide for some of the words the story.
[image source: Amazon.com]