African art and the refinement of Kuba weaving.
Produced in Zaire by the Shoowa, Bashoowa, subgroup Kuba, these fabrics, which form real paintings of primitive art, are made of a raffia textile base on which threads are cut flush, forming a velvet effect accentuated by the contrasts of tone. The geometrical patterns formed represent the body scarifications of the ethnic group or the decorations of the sculptures. These refined fabrics were intended to be used at the royal court, as a seat or cover, to enhance its prestige. In many cases, they took on the value of money, or they also followed their owners into the grave by covering the body of the deceased.
It was King Shamba Bolongongo who is said to have introduced the technique of velvet weaving to the Kuba country in the 17th century. He had previously introduced the Kuba to the art of blacksmithing. It was the men who softened the fibers of young palm trees and bark to draw long threads, which was a delicate and laborious exercise that took several months. Embroidery was then the prerogative of women, originally pregnant women. Male loincloths, mapel , and female loincloths, ntshak , were adapted by their decorative patterns to the social rank of their owner.
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