Exhibition: Akan Royal Regalia

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Cote d’Ivorian designer Mohamed Coulibaly has brought his collection to Cape Town for a singular exhibition and sale of 40 outfits including kente-cloth toga, regalia and sandals in the style of those worn by kings in his country. He is offering Capetonians the chance to have their photograph taken dressed as a king — or to purchase a complete outfit.  The exhibition will run at Idasa Democracy Centre, 6 Spin Street , Cape Town from March 4 – 7 from 10:00 to 22:00 , showcasing the meaning of Akan ( Ashanti ) Royal Regalia. It is the largest collection of its kind to come to South Africa and is a rare opportunity to see the exquisite clothing the Akan kings wear. Each ensemble is a work of art.

Coulibaly is in the city to lecture on the Akan kingdom and the symbolism surrounding the king’s regalia at the Imaging Beauty Body Adornment exhibition and dialogue at the Iziko South African National Gallery.  His show, entitled I want to be a King, will take place as a form of performance art since he will talk about the traditions and enthrone those interested

Mohamed Coulibaly has brought 15 different designs, each with royal symbols, and woven from Egyptian cotton and Indian silk in the time-honoured tradition of the Akan ( Ashanti ) kings. Specialist artisans in Cote d’Ivoire are entrusted with the skilful task of weaving the cloth, which is only worn by kings, the nobility, and rich men.

The royal costumes, crowns, staffs and regalia used in lavish public displays are bright and colourful. This art of the court was intended to impress the populace and signal differences of rank among its users, thereby enhancing the status of the leader and his domain. One of the principal types of cloth worn by the Akan and Ewe and other nearby royals for occasions of state is strip-woven cloth popularly known as kente. Heavier, more elaborate or costly kente are reserved for kings, chiefs or specific members of royalty. These are the outfits on display.  Akan men typically wear huge cloths in a toga-fashion over the left shoulder.

For more information, please contact George Reeves at georgren@mweb.co.za.


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