Kuba textiles are made of raffia fiber. The foundation cloth is a plain weave, woven by men on an inclined loom. The fibers are softened before weaving by rubbing and, after, by kneading and beating the cloth. The embroidery thread is also raffia, which is dyed before stitching. The embroidery process is done by women. Typically, neither the weft nor the plush is secured with knots. The loss of pile in areas with dark dye is common and is due to the highly acidic nature of the dye. The loss of pile can begin within months of dying the fabric.
This piece of raffia cloth is typical of that made by the Shoowa, a Kuba group that lives south of the Sankuru River. Its style--with an overall balanced pattern, deep plush and even lines--is what the Shoowa make for their own use, and it differs markedly from the style used on pieces made for export to other Kuba groups.
Cut pile embroidered raffia cloth panel with overall interlace pattern.
Emil E.O. Gorlia, Belgian Congo, 1905-1927 to before 1977
Sandford M. Harris, Oak Harbor, Washington, before 1977 to 1999