About this artwork
Kuba ceremonial skirts such as this one were worn as part of everyday finery by figures of high social rank as well as exchanged or otherwise distributed as prized items or currency; the objects were also sometimes used in dowry payments or displayed as funerary shrouds. The production of a fabric from the raffia palm leaf requires intensive human labor and technical ability. The abstract motifs that overlay the raffia cloth—circles, L-shapes, and lozenges—reference symbols and ideas that were broadly understood by the Kuba. The interlacing grid-like sections with their tight compositional style contrast sharply with the looser configuration of abstract elements in the center. Simple shapes are scattered—sparsely in places and densely in others—over panels of finely woven, undyed raffia. Although the placement of the shapes is often determined by small holes or tears in the raffia fabric, the shapes themselves and the way they interact imply a conscious attempt to enhance aesthetic appeal through compositional configurations.
Currently Off View
- Ceremonial Skirt
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Raffia, plain weave and cotton, plain weave; pieced; appliquéd with raffia, plain weave in pearl stitches
- 78 × 525 cm (30 3/4 × 206 3/4 in.)
- Edward E. Ayer Endowment, a memorial to Charles L. Hutchinson by his great friend and admirer; Samuel P. Avery and Maurice D. Galleher endowments