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African Kuba cloth with Cowrie shells

Vintage African Kuba Raffia Textile with applique tribal designs and wonderful earth tone colors. The fibers woven from the veins in the leaves from the raffia Palm tree. The people of the Kuba culture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been weaving 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 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 characterize 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.

21'' x 116'' 

Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire

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