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Friday, September 2, 2011

Gallery: Textiles: Kuba and Raffia cloth

Kuba and Raffia cloth

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Kuba cloth is the embroidered and appliqued fabric of the Kuba people of central Africa who leave around Kinshasa in modern day Congo. It is made from woven raffia and it's geometric art forms have been the source of inspiration for artists such as Picasso, Klee and Matisse who owned an extensive collection. For the Kubans the cloth forms an important part of their funeral rites. In order to be recognised by your ancestors when you get to the other side you must be wearing the correctly patterned cloth. These designs are handed down from generation to generation and it is the strength of this tradition that has kept the skills of making Kuba cloth alive.

To make Kuba cloth first a plain square is woven from raffia on a loom - this is usually the work of men. Kuba cloth is very stiff when first woven, so it is pounded in a mortar to soften it. This can cause holes which are a normal part of the cloth but they are sometimes covered with applique designs. After weaving and beating women - although sometimes also men - decorate the cloth using different designs, techniques and materials.

There are about 200 different designs that are known by name but each piece is unique as the artisans improvise as they work.

KUBA005: Long piece of Kuba cloth made from raffia. Complete with rust, dark and light brown and ochre. Applique and tie dyed stripes - a few holes.
24 inches wide 4 yards long

KUBA002: Kuba cloth, made from Raffia, partial, Dark rust colored border with tie dyed elements, embroidered center.
19 inches wide 41 inches long

KUBA003: Kuba cloth, made from Raffia, not complete, dark and light brown appliqué design with some cowry shells.
14 inches wide 48 inches long

KUBA004: Kuba cloth made from Raffia, not complete. Rust colored body with embroidery and cowries. Bobble border mostly complete
14 inches wide 69 inches long


KUBA001: Long piece of Kuba cloth, made from Raffia, not quite complete, has raffia bobbles on the side. Rust colored border, brown middle with cowry shells, embroidery and appliqué patches.
19.5 inches wide 3 yards long

RAFI001 : 19.5 x 28 inches

RAFI002 : 22.5 x 20 inches

RAFI003 : 21 x 26 inches edges are frayed

RAFI004 : 21 x 26 inches

 RAFI005 : 19 x 25 inches edges are frayed

RAFI006 : 22 x 23 inches

RAFI007 : 25 x 25 inches