Factory-printed cloth (Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah)

Unidentified artist1957

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
Washington, DC, United States

Strike a fashionable blow for freedom!

The official portrait of Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of the independent republic of Ghana, is the central focal point of this commemorative cloth. Although Nkrumah was not Asante, he chose to wear the red, yellow, and green colors—associated with both Asante kente cloth, worn widely in Ghana, and with unconquered Ethiopia—as a symbol of his leadership and of pan-African pride. In addition to Nkrumah’s official portrait, the cloth also includes the seal and motto of the new nation (“Freedom and Justice”) as well as the date of independence, March 6, 1957, for which the textile was likely originally produced.
European traders introduced factory-printed cloths to African markets in the 19th century. Early fabrics were based on Indonesian batiks. As advancements in photographic reproduction developed, portraits began to appear on cloth. Known as “fancy” cloths, these printed textiles became very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when many African nations attained independence, and remain important historical documents of an era filled with new possibilities.


  • Title: Factory-printed cloth (Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah)
  • Creator: Unidentified artist
  • Date Created: 1957
  • Location Created: Ghana

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