Old Kuba skirt made using applique and false embroidery techniques
The Kuba people of Zaire weave a wide variety of cloth made from rafia, a natural fiber from palm leaves. The material is stripped into very fine threads, soaked and pounded to make them flexible, and dyed in vegetal or mineral pigments to create a variety of colors. The Kuba employ a variety of weaving and decoration techniques. This textile uses applique and false embroidery to achieve the desired geometric designs.
This old Bushong Kuba skirt was woven of natural rafia fiber, which has been dyed with a natural pigment, and is believed to date from before 1960. I bought it from a large collection of garments collected by a man who lived in Zaire in the 1980s.
Dimensions are about 34 inches wide and 116 inches long. It was formed from a number of pieces of plain rafia textile, joined using natural rafia thread, then dyed and decorated. The geometric design is made from applique pieces bordered with false embroidery. The exposed edges where the pieces were joined are often on the top of the textile; the fraying of these edges gives the meandering patterning in the red background fabric.
Overall condition is Good, with some light wear and slight soil possible. There is some fading and slight staining at places, and a few small wear holes. One of these holes appears next to the coin in the final photo. Examination of the back of the textile also reveals that a number of the applique pieces were sewn over small holes in the base fabric. This seems to indicate that an even older textile was used for the foundation fabric. This was obviously a well used fabric, but remains in very nice condition. The following photos progress across the textile, so the entire piece is shown. Then follows a close-up.