From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, for their elaboration and complexity of design and surface decoration. Most textiles are a variation on rectangular or square pieces of woven palm leaf fiber enhanced by geometric designs executed in linear embroidery and other stitches, which are cut to form pile surfaces resembling velvet. Women are responsible for transforming raffia cloth into various forms of textiles, including ceremonial skirts, ‘velvet’ tribute cloths, headdresses and basketry.
In Kuba culture, men are responsible for raffia palm cultivation and the weaving of raffia cloth. Several types of raffia cloth are produced for different purposes, the most common form of which is a plain woven cloth that is used as the foundation for decorated textile production. Men produce the cloth on inclined, single-heddle looms and then use it to make their clothing and to supply foundation cloth to female members of their clan section. The cloth is coarse when it is first cut from the loom, so it is then pounded in a mortar, which softens it and renders it ready for the application of surface decoration, for which women are responsible. (text from Wikipedia)
The Making of Kuba Cloth
The process of making Kuba cloth is extremely time consuming and may take several days to form a simple placemat size piece. The men first gather the leaves of the raffia tree and then dye it using mud, indigo, or substances from the camwood tree. They then rub the raffia fibers in their hands to soften it and make it easier for weaving. After they’ve completed the base cloth the women embroider it. They do this by pulling a few threads of the raffia fibers, inserting them into a needle running the needle through the cloth until the fibers show up on the opposite end. They then take a knife and cut off the top of the fibers, leaving only a little bit showing. Doing this hundreds of times forms a design. The designs are seldom planned out ahead of time, and most of the embroidery is done by memory.
The Kuba people, who developed this and many other fabrics were very resistant to using European cloth; and for many years seldom used machine made fabrics. When researching this and other cloths that the Kuba people developed, it is not hard to understand why they resisted the change so much. Each fabric, each pattern, and each design in traditional Kuba fabrics has great meaning. On the basis of what a person wore; you could interpret much about them. Social status age, marital status, and a person’s character were just a few of the things a piece of cloth symbolized to these people.
Own a piece of this fabric today; not only will you be sharing in the culture of these ingenious people, but you will experience the true art of the Kuba people as well. Made in Congo. (text from Africa Imports)
From Mali – Bògòlanfini or bogolan (Bambara: bɔgɔlanfini; “mud cloth”) is a handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has, more recently, become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. The cloth is being exported worldwide for use in fashion, fine art and decoration. (text from Wikipedia)
Each piece of mud cloth has a story to tell! The symbols, the arrangement, color and shape, all reveal different secrets.
The Making of Mudcloth
The making of mudcloth is a time-consuming process, normally taking four days to a week to complete depending on weather. Each piece is made of 100% cotton, and is completely and totally hand-made.
The men start the process by weaving cotton thread on a loom. The loom is normally hand-held and makes a strip of cloth 5″-6″ wide. After they weave around 9 panels they sew them together and then traditionally the women paint and design the cloth.
A mudcloth artist deals in a specific field. Each concept is taught and learned over a long period of time. A person wishing to work in the art of mudcloth has to be taught how to make each of the different dyes out of organic substances, as well as how each of the substances will react with the fabric and fixatives.
The first step in making the cloth is to set it in a fixative solution made from tea. The mud designs are then hand-painted and the tea sets into the fabric. Mud used to make mudcloth is usually mixed with water and set aside for about a year.
Using twigs or metal instruments the artist paints the designs with the mud, saturating the area so it will not wash out. After being washed the process is repeated and then dried and put in another solution to make patterns stand out more. On black and white fabric, a soda is painted on the areas with no patterns causing then to be white. (text from Africa Imports)