Kuba Textile Shoowa

A lovely Kuba textile Shoowa people of Kuba Kingdom DRC. Ex Seward Kennedy Collection.

Tribe: Kuba

Origin: Kuba Kingdom, DRC

Approx Age: Mid-later 20th Century

Materials: plant fibre

Dimensions cm: 49 x 57

Ref. Number: 1094


This Kuba textile Shoowa people of the Kuba Kingdom has a simple geometric design, golden brown raffia weaved backing with the use of black dyed raffia embroidered to create the diamond shapes that make up the overall pattern/design. Within the diamonds, smaller diamonds have been sewn to add more texture and produce a more raised quality and luxury to this piece, also a nice freeflow design of straight lines in places.
Provenance: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection.


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 than 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 characterising 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.

Here is some video footage of the Kuba people making textiles.


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