Kuba Textile

  • Tribe: Kuba
  • Origin: DRC
  • Approx Age: Late 20th Century
  • Materials: Raffia
  • Dimensions cm: 73 x 64
  • Ref. Number: 0876
£60.00

Lovely stylized Kuba Textile from the Kuba people of Democratic Republic of Congo. Classic geometric patterns seldom made from design usually created from memory. The art of making Kuba cloth is very time consuming and can take several days to form a small piece. The men first gather the leaves of the raffia tree and then dye it using mud, indigo or substances from the cam wood tree. They then rub the raffia fibres in their hands to soften it and make it easier for weaving. After they’ve completed the base cloth the women embroider it. They do this by pulling a few threads of the raffia fibers, inserting them into a needle running the needle through the cloth until the fibers show up on the opposite end. They then take a knife and cut off the top of the fibers, leaving only a little bit showing. Doing this hundreds of times forms a design.

Image result for kuba women
Photograph owned by Corbis

Each group has different and unique ways to make the fabric. Some make it thicker, longer, shorter, or with different patches. Each patch is symbolic and many times a piece has many different meanings. Using the leaves of the raffia tree, the Kuba people of the Congo first hand cut, and then weave the strips of leaf to make pieces of fabric. The length of the strips will determine the finished size of the piece of cloth called raffia cloth. When Kuba cloth originated there were probably no patches used, but as the cloth is brittle it is quite likely that the patches were used to repair the frequent tears. Later each patch developed a meaning, many patterns are uniquely arranged to tell a story.