Kuba Shoowa Textile

Structured and accomplished use of a pattern within a pattern designed Kuba Shoowa textile.

Tribe: Kuba

Origin: DRC

Approx Age: Mid 20th Century

Materials: Raffia

Dimensions cm: 59 x 45

Ref. Number: 1104


Clever embroidering has created a pattern within a pattern design. The familiar lozenge, interlaced rectangles and diamond shapes have been embroidered in sections then very cleverly worked so that space has been left, allowing each individual section to be highlited by black raffia thread giving an overall large multi hexagonal enhancement to the finished design. The addition of black embroidery infills in some sections adds a lovely depth to this textile.

Provenance: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection.


Weaving techniques have not changed over the centuries. Textiles are woven by men and embroidered by women. Raffia is harvested from the raffia palm tree by men, being a notoriously difficult medium it must be soften by soaking and pounding before boys then strip the leaves and split them by hand or with a comb. Having been made more pliant they are then wound into skeins. Men are then responsible for the weaving of the raffia into cloth ready for the women to embroider. This is done on a single heddle type loom set at an angle. Once woven the cloth is then dampened, kneaded and beaten to increase suppleness, this time by women using a pestle or wooden pile. Women will dye the cloth and embroidery thread before they can then start the embroidery process. A process of passing coloured raffia thread in and out of the warp and weft of the cloth. Leaving only a few millimeters visible the thread ends are cut leaving a short pile. Patterns are created from memory and continued until the whole cloth is covered.

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