Kuba Textile

Interlaced lozenge embroidered Kuba textile.

Tribe: Kuba

Origin: Kuba Kingdom D.R.Congo

Approx Age: Later 20th Century

Materials: Raffia

Dimensions cm: 71 x 66

Ref. Number: 0884



Extremely striking by design. This lovely Kuba textile is embroidered on a golden brown raffia background cloth, with the abundant usage of black raffia thread to create an interlaced design. Small corners of black raffia enhance the centres of the interlacing. Some plain cloth has been left to create an interesting straight line/zig-zag pattern over the whole square of textile.


The people of the Kuba DRC have been weaving the raffia cloth into the ‘Shoowa’ or ‘Kasai Velvet’ for 400 years. To the Kuba people, it is a precious item, used as a currency or gift for visiting tribal chiefs, newly-married couples at a wedding, or grieving families at a funeral. As tradition goes it’s the men who gather and prepare the raffia for cloth and then the women who have the job of dying the thread then creating an embroidery using the geometric patterns and designs sewn on to the raffia cloth. Sewn from memory alone rather than a preset pattern. A combination of interlaced lozenge, rectangles and blocks of colour create these lovely undulating designs. Irregularities characturize textiles such as Shoowa and Kassai velvets and although being described as austere, subtle and monochromatic, they nonetheless have a powerful impact on the viewer. 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.

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