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Kuba Raffia Handwoven Textile Ntshak Checkerboard 11 Ft African

Product #: 97716
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Title Kuba Raffia Handwoven Textile Ntshak Checkerboard 11 Ft African
Type of Object Textile
Country of Origin DR Congo
People Kuba
Materials Raffia, pigment/dyes
Approximate Age 20th Century
Dimensions 137 inches W.  x 25 inches H.
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair Holes, stains, patches and fraying

 Additional Information: A magnificent  raffia textile from the Kuba Kingdom, which is in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. This large skirt is decorated with beautiful designs including embroidery, openworks, checkerboard and balls.   This is a ceremonial large skirt (Ntshak), worn wrapped multiple times around the waist by men as well as by women of royal family and by dignitaries. 

This textile is made by both men and women. Men did the weaving, women did the dying and embroidery. Raffia, which comes from the raffia palm tree, is notoriously difficult to work with. Soaking and pounding were both used to soften the fibers. Each piece took months to make.

This is your chance to purchase an old textile like this. Kuba textiles of this quality are becoming rare. This one will be a central piece in any collection of African textile.

I have written a book on them. See Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi Ph.D., Kuba Textiles & Design , AfricaDirect Inc., 2009, 41 pages. 28 full color photographs, paperback

The following are excerpts from Kuba Textiles and Design :

"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 appliqués 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!"

"Appliqué is the most popular weaving technique among the Kuba. To create an appliqué, 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 appliqués are dark brown or black on an ecru background, a pattern which is sometimes seen in reverse. Other popular appliqués are red or yellow, or are placed on a red or yellow background. Appliqués 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."

"Many European and American collectors have noted the striking similarities between Kuba appliqués 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."

Recommended Reading: 

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