Old Kuba overskirt with false embroidery and cut pile designs
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 overskirt uses both cut pile and false embroidery to achieve the desired geometric designs,
This garment is called an overskirt. It is woven of natural rafia fiber, 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 24 inches wide and 58 inches long. The center panel was woven of two approximately square pieces, joined in the center (the join line is visible only on the back side). The designs in this center panel are cut pile accented with false embroidery. The border pieces, which utilize only false embroidery in different colors to create the design, were made from separate pieces. These were then attached by hand using rafia thread.
Overall condition is Very Good, with mostly tight seams as can be seen in the photos, as well as some light soil. All of the outermost rafia cord is present and firmly attached (except for about 2 inches at the lower left). There is one noticeable area of wear (see the bottom photo) and a few light dirt stains.