KUBA, SHOOWA TEXTILES 3, Democratic Republic of Congo
The true jewels of textile art are the small Shoowa cut-pile
cloths. Their compex 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.
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.