Panel

A work made of raffia, plain weave; embroidered in overcast and stem with running stitches cut to form pile; couching.

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  • A work made of raffia, plain weave; embroidered in overcast and stem with running stitches cut to form pile; couching.

Date:

Early/mid–20th century

Artist:

Kuba
Democratic Republic of the Congo

About this artwork

According to oral tradition, the 17th-century Kuba king Shyaam introduced plush-textured raffia textiles to his kingdom. Raffia panels have long been considered valuable in Central Africa. Plain panels were used as currency as early as the 16th century. Until the early 20th century, such panels were exchanged in a variety of contexts—for instance, as royal tribute or part of a marriage contract. Today they continue to be collected by families, used in funeral displays, and buried with important adults.

Across the Kuba kingdon in Central Africa, raffia palm fiber has long been used to weave textiles for clothing, display, and exchange. Produced on a single heddle loom, these small elaborate panels were woven with lengths of raffia peeled from the palm frond and then embellished with geometric patterns. Into the early 20th century, such highly valued panels were frequently displayed at court ceremonies and funerals. Often referred to as "prestige panels," they also functioned as indicator of social status. These panels were also collected by European artists and designers in the early 20th century, with important consequences to the development of European abstraction.

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Textiles

Artist

Kuba

Title

Panel

Origin

Democratic Republic of Congo

Date

1901–1975

Medium

Raffia, plain weave; embroidered in overcast and stem with running stitches cut to form pile; couching

Dimensions

61 × 49.2 cm (24 × 19 3/8 in.)

Credit Line

Restricted gift of the Textile Society and royalties from Avon Company

Reference Number

1984.1026

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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