Textiles give African art its vibrant color. In African communities, authority is signified by the rich apparel and regalia worn and used by leaders. Art is used to confirm status; in West Africa, rulers present themselves magnificently robed, adorned with gold jewelry and holding beautifully crafted objects. Because the spirit forces, signified in the masquerades, also gain their power from the visual impact of maskers, color is used in costumes to attract attention.
Embroidered cloth (akunitan), woven cloth, printed textiles, and appliquéd textiles are all used imaginatively to dazzle the eye with hues, tones, and textures. Indigo resist ndop cloth from Cameroon, woven textiles (kente cloth), and printed cloth (adinkra mourning cloth, restrained in color and stamped with patterns expressing sorrow) from Ghana are all manufactured locally. However, imported printed cloths are also incorporated into costumes. Inventiveness, rather than cultural “purity” is the objective favored by the artists orchestrating visual spectacle.