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How this museum exhibit will teach children about a storytelling cloth

Posted at 8:37 PM, Feb 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-17 20:37:26-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A visit to the Children's Museum of Richmond is more than a fun space for children - it's also an opportunity for the whole family to play and learn together.

Kendall Bruffy is a play leader at the museum and said the art studio is like her baby.

"It's a place where we really encourage kids to like, learn and explore. Our big saying is process over product," Bruffy said.

The subject of focus for the month of February is the Kente Fabric from West Africa, Ghana.

It's the country where Joan Dickens Andoh, the community outreach coordinator for the Children's Museum of Richmond, is from. The idea came from a project that Bruffy did in college on the clothing history of Ghana.

“And so, it really kind of opened my eyes to Kente as a beautiful expression of history and the rich stories that it tells through its cloth, and I really was hoping to bring that to the arts studio so the kids' kind of could learn about that piece of history," Bruffy said.

The team then mapped out fabric templates to share with their young guests.

"One of the things that we're talking about a lot with their activity is the symbolism of the colors and how they tell the story of the wearer, and kind of allowing kids to think about if I was in that culture, what story would my cloth tell."

One of the weekend's activities is a Kente cloth craft.

The history of Kente cloth dates back thousands of years in West Africa and was worn by kings and queens and was used for special occasions. Today, it's far more affordable but still is used for special functions.

“I know other African countries have the Kente, but they don't have the original Kente fabric that is, that stems from Ghana itself from the Ashanti region from the Ashanti people."

Children will also learn how Kente cloth is made. The goal is to educate children about fabric and the art of storytelling.

"Because when you see a fabric, you may think that it's just a dress or just a fabric, but this has a history behind it."

"I think we think about stories of like storybooks. But Kente cloth is also a rich cultural story and kind of lets them know about that storytelling tradition. How important is it to let kids see, feel, touch and learn about these things? A lot of them learn through touch, through experiencing it for themselves, so once they leave here, they have the experience to go home with and also doing the same thing that they did here."

The museum is also planning a big activity for Juneteenth and they don't plan to shy away from more aspects of the African Diaspora.

"When I come in and I have an African outfit on, and they have to ask me questions, oh that's beautiful where is that from, it opens me up to tell them a little bit about where I'm also from," Dickens Andoh said.

The Black History Month events and activities run through the end of February.