Saturday, 6 June 2015



Kuba Design | DR CONGO
Title Kuba Raffia Square Kasai Velvet Textile Boutallah DR Congo African
Type of Object Raffia Handwoven Textile
Country of Origin DR Congo
People Kuba
Materials Raffia palm fibers, dyes
Approximate Age 20th century

Additional Information: A handwoven Kuba square raffia textile decorated with beautiful design patterns!

The following are excerpts from Kuba Textiles and Design, by Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi Ph.D.:

"In sub-Saharan Africa, where representative art has flourished for centuries, carvers and crafts people have typically taken for their subjects human figures, animals, plants, and elements of the natural world. Abstract art, meanwhile, has remained marginal. The textiles of the BaKuba (Kuba) people of the Democratic Republic of Congo are an exception. Although part of a tradition that stretches back 400 years, Kuba textiles have a strikingly modern look. They use improvised systems of signs, lines, colors, and textures, often in the form of complex geometric rectilinear patterns. Their applique are reminiscent of works by 19th- and 20th-century masters like Matisse, Picasso, Klee, Penck, and Chellida. This is no coincidence: all of those artists were inspired by Kuba design!"

"The most commonly known of the Kuba textiles are the cut-pile Shoowa or Kasai Velvets, named after the river along which the BaKuba live. Improvisation and irregularity characterize the Kasai Velvets. This is because the weaver works without a plan or preliminary sketching, though the model can occasionally be displayed on the cloth in advance using black thread. Often the design is built up from memory, repeating the most common designs and color combinations found in the region. The message conveyed is up to the artist, who is the only one who can explain what he or she intended to represent."

Kuba Design | DR CONGO
"Originally Kasai Velvets were used as currency, and were valuable products for trade and exchange. They could be included in the tribute villagers paid annually to the King, in the dowries of
matrimonial exchanges, and in funeral gifts and offerings to the dead. They also served to embellish the royal court, cover the royal thrones, and decorate the King'€™s palace wall. Colonial agents and missionaries arriving in the Kuba Kingdom in the nineteenth century were fascinated by the Kasai Velvets, and encouraged women to produce more of them to adorn religious vestments for Catholic missionaries and decorate the interiors of European houses."

"Many European and American collectors have noted the striking similarities between Kuba appliques and Matisse’s dancing figures. One surviving photograph shows Matisse in his bedroom, surrounded by Kuba textiles—an indication of how deeply he was influenced by Kuba design."

Henri Matisse in his bedroom surrounded by Kuba Designs

"Applique is the most popular weaving technique among the Kuba. To create an applique, Kuba artists use a stencil to cut decorative designs out of a brightly colored cloth, and then sew or apply the designs onto a cloth of a different color. The designs are then placed on top of yet another cloth. Through this process, the artist has the freedom to create an almost unlimited variety of patterns and combinations."

"The most familiar appliques are dark brown or black on an ecru background, a pattern which is sometimes seen in reverse. Other popular appliques are red or yellow, or are placed on a red or yellow background. Appliques can also be natural-on-natural (or occasionally red-on-red). The black-on-neutral embroidery which resembles an elaborate maze is the work of the Ngeende or Ngoongo."

Kuba Design | DR CONGO

See Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi Ph.D., Kuba Textiles & Design, AfricaDirect Inc., 2009, 41 pages. 28 full color photographs, paperback.

Henri Matisse was so inspired by these Congolese patterns, designs and the joy of their randomness and unconventionality he created an Exhibition to celebrate this shapes in 1952/53


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