We do not recommend laundering textiles, and do not accept returns of textiles which have been laundered in any manner. Even dry cleaning is too much for some of these antique textiles. For some of them, a very gentle HAND washing (NEVER MACHINE, on any setting) in cool water with a very gentle detergent works, but even then, dyes may not be colorfast, and fabric may be less strong than it appears.
Additional Information: A superb Kuba royal Raffia textile handwoven in good condition. This particular variety of textile is known as NTSHAKABWIIN and was worn by women in the royal family. It is quite different from other varieties of Kuba raffia textiles. The middle with heavy plush in raffia natural color; the borders have overcast stitching with geometric patterns. 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.
A similar piece is published in Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi Ph.D., Kuba Textiles & Design, AfricaDirect Inc., 2009, fig.10, p.22
The following are excerpts from Kuba Textiles and Design by Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi, Ph.D.:
"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."
For more information see Elizabeth S. Bennett and Niangi Batulukisi Ph.D., Kuba Textiles & Design, AfricaDirect Inc., 2009, 41 pages. 28 full color photographs, paperback.
For other similar examples, see my favorite book on Kuba textiles, unfortunately, written in German "TRAUMZEICHEN - raphiagewebe das Konigreichs Bakuba," pages 22 and 23.
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.