Thursday, 15 August 2019

Kube Dance Skirt | Democratic Republic of Congo

African Kuba Raffia & Cowrie Shell Dance Skirt - 1950s


Estimate | $4,000 - $5,000

Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, ca. 1950. A traditional Kuba dance skirt (Tcaka) - handmade from raffia and hand-stitched with immense artistry, presenting bold geometric patterns in warm earth tones - rich browns and toasty almond beiges - as well as pops of more vibrant color - magenta, blue, green, and pink. Such cloths are usually created by Kuba men on a single heddle loom. Next they are embroidered by women and children to create an uncut or cut-pile appearance. Highly decorative and created with painstaking technique, this skirt presents panels of checkerboard patterns and an applied overlapping zigzag/diamond motif comprised of pink, black, and houndstooth fabrics. The trim is made of alternating passages of cut raffia pom poms and cowrie shells. A particularly exceptional example given that it is made of raffia, demonstrates immense artistry with intricate patterns, skillfully executed weaving, beautiful hues, and also boasts a generous size and excellent condition. Size: 260" L x 33" H (660.4 cm x 83.8 cm)

Kuba cloths are worn during ceremonial events, especially funerals; however, they are also found in tapestries and home furnishings. The abstract geometric patterns are symbolic of an individual's social and marital status, age, and/or personal attributes or character.

There are several theories concerning the inspiration for Kuba style. One theory suggests that the designs in Kuba textiles are rooted in tribal scarification patterns. Another suggests that the motifs of Kuba textiles were modeled upon those found in crop patterns. Still another suggests that the source for their visual patterns was divine intervention. The creation of these ceremonial wraps is a collaborative effort. Men are involved in all stages of preparing the fiber and executing the weaving, whereas women soften the textiles and apply the decoration. These coveted ceremonial textiles are worn during ritual dances and special occasions such as festivals, weddings, funerals, and initiation rites.

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