Small Shoowa cut-pile cloth: Their complex interplay of geometric symbols, inventive rhythm and balance, uniquely individual designs and tight “velvet” surfaces created objects so mysteriously alluring the Kuba people traded them as currency and they were the standard by which a family’s wealth and status were judged.
These raffia cut-pile cloths, woven by men, were embroidered by women with no stitching visible on the back. Highly prized for their complex patterns, they are further embellished with tight tufting, leading to the nickname “Kasai velvet”. They were sewn together for ceremonial dress and covered royal stools. As a sign of status and to provide for the afterlife they were buried with kings or those fortunate enough to own many.
Tcaka, long cloths made from raffia, from 8 – 25 feet long, from the Ngeende, Bushoong and Ngongo peoples. They incorporate appliqued “patches”, embroidered shapes and patterns, openwork, tie-dye, cowrie shells, bark-cloth and border elements. The appliqued “patches” originally repaired holes, then developed into traditional design motifs. Most are covered with geometric symbols; many are restrained, subtle and rhythmic designs using one technique; others create amazing quilt-like assemblages of old pieces of many forms. The full skirts, worn by men and women, are bunched up and wrapped around many times.
These cloths are not fragile. They can be pinned to a wall, framed, or even used as a fabric for clothing or upholstery. Folds or wrinkles can be removed with careful misting and ironing from the back.