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Raffia Textile Panel


Artwork Details

Raffia Textile Panel
19th century - 20th century
raffia palm fiber
20 1/2 in x 19 3/4 in (52.07 cm x 50.17 cm)
Gift of the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communications in memory of Warren M. Robbins


Subject Matter:

In the 19th century, decorated raffia cloth was used as a marker of prestige, as currency, to pay tribute, settle legal disputes, and in public displays such as the funerals of high-ranking titleholders. Additionally, they were often used as initiation objects during ceremonial rites of passage. The textiles are generally covered with geometric patterns, similar to patterns found on Kuba basketry, woodwork, sculpture, and female body scarifications. Patterns may be given names, but the same pattern will likely be given a different name by different people.

The diamond pattern in this cloth is created through a repetative crossing of lines and the positioning of chevrons opposite one another. A double crossing can possibly be concidered a reference to Woot, the mythical founder of the Kuba, whose mother invented mat weaving.

Monni Adams, Kuba Embroidered Cloth, African Arts, 1978
Daniel Biebuyck, The Arts of Zaire, 1985
Georges Meurant, African Textiles from the Kingdom of Kuba, 1986
Roy Sieber, African Textiles and Decorative Arts, 1972

Physical Description:

Tan square panel with tan hemmed edges consisting of a repetitive diamond pattern with alternating chevrons. 

Usage Rights:

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