Kuba Raffia Embroideries  

           from the collection of Marla Mallett           HOME   
Kuba people in the Republic of the Congo have made intricately embroidered ritual cloths of raffia. Men weave the plain-weave ground fabrics on simple vertical looms, then women ornament these textiles with imaginative geometric patterning. Cut-loop pile forms the majority of the designs in these outstanding pieces of African textile art sometimes called "Kasai velvets"; flat stem-stitch embroidery is used between pile areas for contrast. Some of the pieces display  a "patchwork" appearance;  this is a design feature, as they are NOT fragments stitched together.

The pieces on these pages are thought to be 40 to 60  years old, and they are in good condition unless otherwise noted. They were used for decoration, for funeral offerings, for tribute, and sometimes as currency, or Mbal.

For other Sub-Saharan pieces go to African Textiles
. To see textile art from other parts of the world, go to our HOME page.

NOTE:  Click on the inventory numbers below for larger photos of each textile.   

Kuba raffia cloth weaver in the Congo. Photo from Roy Sieber's African Textiles and Decorative Arts, New York, 1972.

For an interesting article on the production and use of raffia cloth textiles see Patricia Darish, "Dressing for the Next Life: Raffia Textile Production and Use Among the Kuba of Zaire," Cloth and Human Experience, Eds. Annette B. Weiner & Jane Schneider, Washington, 1989.

George Meurant's book, Shoowa Design: African Textiles from the Kingdom of Kuba, London, 1986, remains one of the best publications on the raffia pile embroideries, though it is now out of print. 

How to Order
1690 Johnson Road NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30306   USA

E-mail:  marlam@mindspring.com
Phone:  404-872-3356