Kwasi Asare is one of the Africa’s most prominent and accomplished weavers; he is particularly known for Kente cloth, the highly prized Ghanaian cloth that has traditionally symbolized royalty, honor and leadership.
Being with Kwasi Asare is a pure joy. His understanding of Kente cloth and the weaving traditions of Africa is unparalleled, but more importantly, Kwasi truly loves his art and profession. With his smile and easy-going manner, he joyfully reaches out to adults, youth and children alike with a desire to share a vision of creativity, love and self-expression. Through his workshops and presentations, Kwasi is excited to see students of all ages develop a stronger mind-body connection by being absorbed in careful, detailed work with their hands. Working with his own special easy-to-use hand looms, Kwasi’s students can create their own wonderful pieces of the honored and venerable Kente cloth. This kind of artistic work is a much-needed counterbalance to a world where many of us spend countless hours every day hours typing on a keyboard or viewing device screens. In this way, working with Kwasi’s s looms becomes like a meditation process. This activity helps students get in touch with the patience, creativity, vision and attention to detail necessary for creating something beautiful and valuable with one’s hands. The workshop is universal – it is educational, informative and attractive to virtually anyone from any age or background.
Kwasi Asare’s Personal Story
Kwasi Asare was born in a village called Apirede in Akwapim, about 11 miles from Ghana’s capital, Accra. He was destined to follow in the footsteps of his late father, A.E. Asare, who established Dento Mills, a Kente weaving center in Nsawam, Ghana during the 1950’s. When Ghana’s first President – the great African independence leader Dr. Kwame Nkrumah – first met the elder A.E. Asare and saw his Kente work, he was deeply impressed. For his most important political and ceremonial events, the late Kwame Nkrumah always turned to A.E. Asare to create a special Kente cloth to embody the spirit of the occasion. In October 1962 – at the height of the African independence movement – he arranged for A.E. Asare to create a special Kente cloth to adorn the United Nations headquarters building in New York City.
Although A.E. Asare died when Kwasi was only 2 years old, as a young child Kwasi was naturally drawn to carrying on his father’s tradition. By the time Kwasi was 5 he was playing with the shuttles in the loom. With the help of his father’s assistant, Opanyin Kwame Dappah, Kwasi was given in-depth training and by the age of 12 he was weaving some of the most intricate designs and adding his own unique and innovative color schemes. In between his formal schooling, Kwasi always made time for his loom and started creating some of his own designs. After graduating from Ghana’s Achimota High School, Kwasi enrolled in the University of Hertfordshire in England, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science w/ Honors degree in Mathematics; yet he always maintained his passion for weaving and his involvement with Dento Mills. Through sheer determination, vision and his boundless love for the craft, Kwasi revitalized his father’s dwindling weaving center by the time he was 25. Today Dento Mills employs 10 full-time weavers and several apprentices undergoing training. You can read more about Kwasi Asare and Dento Mills in his formal biography, by clicking here.
Kwasi Asare, A.E. Asare and the United Nations
For the United Nations 50th Anniversary in October 1995, Kwasi Asare was commissioned to create a new design of the Kente cloth which he called “Adwene Asa” meaning “Consensus has been reached.” The Adwena Asa currently hangs in the United Nations General Assembly, replacing the original Kente cloth was created by his father, A.E. Asare, over 35 years earlier, as it had become worn and began to fray. The Adwena Asa stands as an emblem of diplomacy, peace and compassion and as an aspirational symbol for all the world’s delegates who gather there.
Kwasi Asare’s Exhibitions, Demonstrations and Workshops
Kwasi has held exhibitions in Africa and often travels internationally. As part of his cultural and educational presentations, Kwasi performs demonstrations on a traditional loom while also offering a hands-on workshop using his own unique small looms that he created to make Kente weaving an accessible experience for everyone. The workshops are a wonderful synthesis of art and mathematics – blending of pattern recognition, thinking in numbers, creative symbolism and mind-body activity. Kwasi recently held demonstrations and workshops at the Auburn Museum in Alabama, Tuskegee University, Bowie University and schools and organizations in the surrounding area. During Ghana’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in March 2007, he was invited to do an exhibition and workshop at the Boricua College in New York. Recently Kwasi has also been sharing his craft with many schools, community groups, and organizations in the Washington, D.C. area and other parts of the country. He has also taught his Ghanaian Kente craft to Navajo weavers while also learning from them, thus being able to compare both weaving traditions. Kwasi has co-authored a wonderful children’s book, Kwasi and the Kente Colours which captures the imagination of children and encourages them to engage in age-old the craft and tradition of weaving.