Crazy for Kuba Cloth

While we’re discovering the wealth of intricate textiles that hail from Africa…let’s take a journey to the Congo.  Specifically, ALL things Kuba Cloth!

Kuba textiles are unique to the ‘Democratic Republic of Congo’, formally known as Zaire.  The textiles themselves are beautifully executed geometric designs of alternating linear embroidery, that often times resembles velvet.  Kuba cloth is organic and earthy, possessing an almost otherworldly magical quality.

Find a plethora of worldly woven Kuba treasures by visiting Design MIX Furniture’s showroom!  Taking a trip to the Congo can be as simple as stepping out onto your patio.  Sprinkle your sofa with texturally rich Kuba pillows!

Natural Kuba grass cloth textile with traditional black and tan diamond design. Black soft canvas back with down insert.

Kuba cloth’s warm and inviting earth tones provide a depth to interior design, that is at once both nostalgic and innovative.  Pepper your benches with Kuba textiles…they add just the right amount of spice to any setting.

The gritty warmth of the textiles is seen directly in the culture of the Congo’s people.  Historically, Kuba cloth has been used in ceremonial skirts, wrappers, tribute cloths, sleeping mats, headdresses, basketry and even currency.  Nowadays, textile enthusiasts have introduced thoughtful aesthetic applications for our sanctuaries that we call ‘home’.

But, before these Kuba treasures reach the confines of our spaces, how do they come to be…?

It’s primitive nature allows Kuba Cloth to be simultaneously ancient and ritualistic, in it’s creation. Graphically, the textile is distinctive and evocative of the Congo.  The earth and terrain of it’s origin is seen directly within the rich strands of the textile’s weave.  Kuba cloth is handwoven using strands from raffia palm leaves.  The raffia palm tree is known for having the longest leaves in the world.  The raffia strands are dyed in a variety of earth tones, using vegetable dyes.  Textile variations are executed on rectangular pieces of woven palm leaf fiber.

In the dusty Congo, men of the ‘Kuba’ culture are responsible for the raffia palm cultivation and weaving the cloth itself.  Men produce the cloth on inclined, single-heddle looms.  ‘The transformation from leaf to textile is easy to comprehend, but tedious to execute.  Discarded leaves are gathered, dried, and softened by being pounded in a mortar. The leaves are then dyed and stripped down to individual fibers before being woven into panels or strips, that are then embroidered (Dugan)’.

The women of the Congo are responsible for the decorative achievements of Kuba cloth.  Applications of surface design are thoughtfully integrated onto the dense textile.  Traditionally, there are two types of Kuba Cloth: ‘cut pile cloths and flatwoven cloths with no pile, showcasing either embroidery, appliqué, or patchwork’.

Methods of weaving, dyeing, decorating, and essentially creating the cloth, has become one of the most versatile and enduring expressions of human creativity. Patterns have been passed down through generations. And although they can be repetitive, they are always unique one of a kind treasures. Simple shapes become stunning works of art.  In this sense, creation of this magical cloth ceases to be purely utilitarian in it’s process.  Rather, it becomes a medium to translate communication of an art form.

For us design fanatics and textile enthusiasts, Kuba cloth can be warmly integrated into one’s home in a kaleidoscope of applications.  Specifically, the creative flock have been enjoying the geometric wonders of Kuba in soft furnishings such as: wallhangings, tapestries, pillows, ottomans, rugs, framed art, and all things upholstered.

The art of rearranging the panels into soft goods and textiles, allows the opportunity to absorb the color and dynamics of Kuba cloth’s patterns.  The subtle difference in shades brings an element of contrast to a piece.  The cloth itself translates a majestic quality, that can elevate how you perceive your interior space.

This type of re-purposing represents a preservation of the original ‘dialogue’ embedded in the Kuba cloth, while allowing us to appreciate them in their entirety.

These interior design and textile applications illustrate how classic beauty and tradition, can be appreciated in a modern way.  Allow yourself the space to integrate the perfect MIX of Kuba Cloth into your house, your office, and your creative nooks.  Pop over to our showroom today, and take some Congo magic back to your homes…where they can be truly celebrated!

Original African Kuba Cloth textile hand stitched in a drum shape chandelier. Each is unique and comes with 3′ or hanging chain and ceiling plate.

Hand woven Kuba cloth ottoman with burlap seat. Custom sizes and styles available.

Original African Kuba Cloth tall hanging pendant lamp.

Traditional Kuba cloth hand made from the indigenous people of the Congo. The process of making Kuba Cloth is extremely time consuming. The fabric is created from leaves of the raffia tree and then dyed from natural vegetable dye mud or indigo. Each pattern has great meaning of social status age marital status or personal characteristics of tribal families.

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Stefanie Houlis

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