At its height, the Kuba Kingdom, which existed in modern Congo, revelled in the creation of objects favoured by the king and nobility. Decorative patterns used on raffia cloth featured on statues and palm wine goblets for example. As common in other parts of Africa, these textiles were used as currency. In the Kuba kingdom, they were also used for marriage ceremonies and in court cases. They were important to demonstrate prestige in funerals, with the quantity on show being a measure of the wealth of the deceased.
Some quick facts about Kuba cloth:
The inner bark of certain trees was stripped and then beaten to make felted fabric.
Fact # 2
The base cloth, or “mbal”, is woven from raffia fibre on a loom; and is approximately two square feet, restricted by the natural length of the fibre.
Fact # 3
Women use a variety of techniques to make Kuba cloth, including embroidery, dyeing, applique and patchwork.
Fact # 4
The strands of raffia are individually inserted into the base fabric and then cut close to create a raised 3-D relief pattern.
Fact # 5
Many women will work on a single large piece, contributing individual panels of decorated pieces which will then be joined to form a collaborative whole.
A good selection of Kuba textiles are on show in several restaurant venues in Salzburg owned by Austria’s Red Bull founder.
See also, the article by our guest blogger, Vanessa Drake Moraga.
The Toghal Twigs patterns are our re-interpretation of the motifs used in applique on a Kuba cloth, which we have rearranged to create an irregular pattern reminiscent of the abrupt changes in pattern that occur when the panels are joined together, yet somehow maintaining a cohesive whole. A personal favourite is the Twigs lampshade.