Kuba Raffia Cloth

Kuba Raffia Cloth
Kuba Raffia Cloth

Kuba Raffia Cloth


The textile often prominently features both repeated themes and irregularities between sections, which remind you that an artist’s hand crafted each stitch. This style originated in the 17th century in the Kuba kingdom of central Africa, in modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo. Traditionally woven using raffia palm fibers, Kuba cloths range in size and shape and are renowned as a significant art tradition from this part of the world.

One primary cultural export from this bustling society is the Kuba cloth, which is borne of a time-intensive process involving multiple people. First, the raffia fibers are stripped and kneaded for an initial softening. The strands are then colored using vegetable dyes, creating the shades of ivory, brown, clay red, and indigo blue that are associated with many arts of the Kuba kingdom. A flatweave textile is then produced on an inclined heddle loom, usually by male weavers. At this point, another round of dyeing or kneading may take place, before handing the piece off for "finishing" work typically carried out by Kuba women. These decorative techniques can include embroidery, appliqués, or patchwork, and result in a cut pile cloth whose texture resembles velvet. 

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