Raffia Pile Cloth

raffia pile cloth

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Type: Yarn, Fabric and Fabric Finishing Material
Object Name: Raffia Pile Cloth
Place Made: Africa: Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
People: Kuba
Period: Mid 20th century
Date: c 1950
Dimensions: L 57 cm x W 55 cm
Materials: Raffia
Techniques: Plain woven; embroidered; cut pile stitch
ID Number: T94.3027
Credit: From the Opekar / Webster Collection

The Kuba people of the Congo are well-known for textiles made from raffia and featuring interlocking knot designs. The men weave the cloth and the women embroider it. The characteristic pile – known as Kasai velvet or cut-pile cloth – is made by embroidering the cloth with soft, thin strips of natural and dyed raffia, which are clipped to make a velvet-like surface. The fabric is a prestige item traditionally used as ceremonial clothing and for exchange, especially as part of a marriage contract.