Kuba Applique Textile

A nice old piece of traditional Kuba applique textile.
Tribe: Kuba

Origin: Kuba Kingdom, D.R.Congo

Approx Age: Early –  Mid 20th Century

Materials: Woven raffia fibers

Dimensions cm: 72 x 78

Ref. Number: 1101


A wonderful old piece of Kuba applique textile. A piece of woven fiber cloth that has had shapes of cloth attatched to the surface in the process know as ‘applique’. Shapes of circles, squares and rectangles have been more heavily applied to one end of this piece with just a smattering on the opposite end. A well looked after and chesrished Kuba applique textile.

Provenance: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection.


Over the centuries weaving techniques have not changed significantly. Finding and preparing raffia fibres, weaving the cloth, dyeing, and decorating with embroidery cut-pile, applique, or patchwork, remain the basic steps in the making of textiles. Textiles are woven by men and embroidered by women. Raffia which comes from the raffia palm tree is a notoriously difficult medium. It has to be softened before it can be used which is accomplished by soaking and pounding. A lengthy process of smoothing the fibres with snail shells then winding the fibres into skeins and only then does the weaving of the thread begin. The size of the cloth that is produced is determined by the natural length of the raffia palm as strand are not tied. Applique is the most popular weaving technique among the Kuba. To create an applique, Kuba artists use a stencil to cut decorative designs out of a brightly coloured cloth and then sew or apply the design on to a cloth of a different colour. The designs are then placed on top of yet another cloth. During this process, the artist has the freedom to create an almost unlimited variety of patterns and combinations. The most familiar applique are dark brown or back on an ecru background, a pattern that is sometimes seen on the reverse. Other popular colours for applique are re or yellow, or applique can be placed on a red or yellow background. The black-on-neutral embroidery which resembles an elaborate mas is the work of the Ngeende or Ngoongo.

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