The Kuba people of the Congo have successfully translated their unique identity into a genre of textiles that are very different from other forms on the continent. Raphia replaces cotton as the fiber, and woven pieces are sewn together as rectangles and decorated using various methods, including tie and dye, applique, patchwork, and drawn-thread work. The resulting pattern and color combinations are evocative and have become an international inspiration for an array of artists.
Most often Kuba textiles are used as embroidered skirts for both men and women. Raphia is stiffer than most traditional textile fibers, and as garments, most people would describe them as uncomfortable. For this reason they are pounded, but this aggressive process can easily cause damage to the resulting fabric, and so like the imperfect arrangement of patterns, distress has become part of the aesthetic.
The Kuba tribe is often called the Kuba Kingdom. A spirit of tradition and royalty exists amongst the different people groups within the confederation, and this system of order plays a part in the philosophy and construction of their cloths. Authenticity can be a problematic term when discussing any art form in Africa, but many people feel that Kuba cloths accurately represent the sophistication of Kuba culture.
Because there is a great deal of variation in Kuba fabric styles, at Kauli they are included in our Select Series as highly unique pieces.
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