Kuba Nchak Dance Skirt

  • Tribe: Kuba
  • Origin: DRC
  • Approx Age: Mid 20th Century, late 40s early 50s
  • Materials: Raffia
  • Dimensions cm: 143 x 74
  • Ref. Number: 1068

A striking and old Kuba Nchak Dance Skirt from the Kuba Kingdom of Democratic Republic of Congo. Kuba Skirt “Nchak” also known as “Ntshak”, this particular style  of Nchak the Kuba call Buin Bushin . This stunning piece of traditional Kuba attire shows plenty of signs of use. The centre section is in a cream natural raffia colour edged with a designed patterns typical and so easily recognised from the Kuba. There are several colours used through out the making of this beautiful Kuba Nchak or Nshaak skirt, black, brown and two different shades of cream.

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The Nchak for ordinary day to day wear is usually a white and red garment worn wrapped around the lower body and held at the waist or beneath the breasts by a folded band of cloth or a belt made of twisted multi strand fiber. Nchak usually consists of two or three raffia panels. In ceremonial dances Nchak worn by women are considerably longer than those in every day wear. However today Nchak are made up of square or rectangular pieces of cloth sewn together lengthwise and assembled in such a way as to show off the unity of the panels or of their lateral movement, which is accented either by the use of alternating panels dyed red or black, or by sewing together panels of different dimensions.

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The Kuba are primarily farmers, and they have developed a society in which everyone plays his or her distinctive role. Textile production is one such activity in which men and women work together.  While it is the women who cultivate the palms from which the cloths are made, the men are the ones who gather the fronds, make the raffia out of the palm-leaf fibers and then weave the mats on upright looms. The woven mats are then quite often soaked in water, and then beaten to make them soft. It is at this point that women take over. They will take the fresh undecorated mats and use them as a back ground for the traditional rectilinear, geometric patterns that are worked in palm thread. As a final step, the pile is then created by clipping the tufts.

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Kuba women brushing thr raffia pile.


Amazingly though, the patterns, no matter how complicated, are never actually marked on the mats. Instead, the women keep the design being worked in their mind, anticipating the colour changes needed to complete the design. Not marking the mat with a pattern, is of course one of the most amazing aspects of Kassai velvet cloth production. Many Kuba cloths are made in smaller pieces and are then sewn together to be used in the creation of garments. Indeed it is the usually the mans garment that is made up of two or occasionally three rectangles or almost square pieces of cloth with a border measuring between two to six inches. Sizes of cloth pieces depending on the size of the loom and the size of the person operating the loom. When sewn together for usage in garment creation, these costumes constitute an expression of wealth. They are used in dowries and as currency, and are sometimes given in large quantities to the dead during funeral ceremonies. The best examples are quite costly and seldom, if ever, used for what we might term as everyday wear.

Both Kuba male and female garments made of raffia cloth have been worn wrapped around the waist and held up by a belt. Where today this practice is falling into disuse, garments decorated with intricate designs are still designed for wear at funerals or kept to be given to the dead as grave offerings.

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