THE COLORS alone -- eggplant purple, royal blue, raspberry red, school-busyellow and more -- draw children to the cloths displayed in "Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity," an exhibition opening Sunday at the National Museum of African Art and the Arts and Industries Building. And youngsters touring the show don't have to settle for merely looking at the vibrant weavings on display, thanks to a variety of educational, hands-on activities.
Kente, a traditional style of West African cloth made of intricately woven strips, originated as a royal garment of the Asante and Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo and is a popular pattern in African American clothing and accessories.
The exhibition features two activity rooms with projects geared toward children of all ages, accompanied by adults. At the Museum of African Art, youngsters can create their own colorful designs by weaving paper strips through pre-slit sheets of paper. At another table, visitors can color kente designs or draw their own creations to be displayed on a bulletin board. At a wrapping station, actual kente cloths hang on pegs next to a full-length mirror and posted instructions on the proper ways to drape the garments on men, women and children.
Kids also can weave cloth on a loom, play kente-themed computer games, listen to Ghanaian music, read kente- and West African-related stories and play with designs on a large magnetic board. The activity room in the Arts and Industries Building, which focuses on the uses of kente in Washington, features similar selections.
Family Day is Sept. 18. From 11 to 4 visitors can watch demonstrations of kente weaving on floor looms, participate in a Ghanaian procession and, for a small fee, don kente cloth and have their photos taken.
Before touring the show, pick up a copy of the Family Guide, available free of charge in the galleries at both museums. The booklet includes questions and activities that coordinate with 16 labeled stops in the exhibition, including such topics as shopping for kente in a market, recognizing differences in kente cloth, and searching for symbols like birds and stools.
"WRAPPED IN PRIDE: GHANAIAN KENTE AND AFRICAN AMERICAN IDENTITY" -- National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. SW. Arts and Industries Building, 900 Jefferson Dr. SW (Metro: Smithsonian). 202/357-2700 (TDD: 202/357-1729). Open daily 10 to 5:30. The exhibition opens Sunday and runs through Jan. 2. Walk-in, docent-led tours take place at 1:30 Monday through Thursday and at 11 and 1 on Saturdays and Sundays. Meet at the Museum of African Art's information desk. Free, family-oriented special events include the following:
Oct. 2 -- Asante Master Weaver Nyamekese Osei-Tutu demonstrates kente weaving from 2 to 4 at the Arts and Industries Building. Visitors may bring in their own kente cloths for identification by a museum education specialist and art history associate professor.
Oct. 23 -- Storytelling at 2 at the Arts and Industries Building features Anansi the Spider.
Oct. 30 - Storytelling at 2 at the Arts and Industries Building focuses on the Ewe peoples of southeastern Ghana.
Nov. 20 and 21 -- Ewe Master Weaver Gilbert "Bobo" Ahiagble demonstrates kente weaving from 1 to 4 in the Arts and Industries Building.
Dec. 4 -- Storytelling at 2 at the Arts and Industries Building includes tales about Anansi the Spider and the beginnings of kente.