Kuba Shoowa Textile

  • Tribe: Kuba
  • Origin: DRC
  • Approx Age: Late 20th Century
  • Materials: Raffia
  • Dimensions cm: 77 x 56
  • Ref. Number: 0870

A beautiful Kuba Shoowa Textile from the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Kuba people in the Republic of the Congo have made beautifully embroidered ritual cloths of raffia. Men weave the plain-weave ground fabrics on simple vertical looms, then women ornament these textiles with imaginative geometric patterning. Cut-loop pile forms the majority of the designs in these outstanding pieces of African textile art sometimes called “Kasai velvet’s”; flat stem-stitch embroidery is used between pile areas for contrast. The appearance of some of the pieces. Some of the pieces display a “patchwork” appearance; this is a design feature, as they are NOT fragments stitched together.

In Kuba culture, men are responsible for raffia palm cultivation and the weaving of raffia cloth. Several types of raffia cloth are produced for different purposes, the most common form of which is a plain woven cloth that is used as the foundation for decorated textile production. Men produce the cloth on inclined, single-hedle looms and then use it to make their clothing and to supply foundation cloth to female members of their clan section. The cloth is coarse when it is first cut from the loom, so it is then pounded in a mortar, which softens it and renders it ready for the application of surface decoration, for which women are responsible.

With their fascinating patterning with a complex geometry these works of true art are used in a variety of ways which include dowries, shrouds, religious investment, type of currency and as a statue symbol. It is a skill and art that has been around for hundreds of years and is taught and has been pasted down from generation to generation.