Textile, cloth, fiber


20th Century


Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo


Raffia, pigment
24 13/16 x 22 1/16 in. (63 x 56 cm)

Object Number



This embroidered cloth is sometimes called "Kasai velvet" after the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo from which they originate and the cut-pile technique of their manufacture. The underlying raffia structure is woven by men on upright looms while women embroider and cut the intricate geometric designs of intermeshing chevrons, squares, and crosses. Each pattern is separately named, and many are said to have originated with Woot, the mythic founder-hero of the Kuba state or with his mother who is said to have invented mat-weaving. The most distinctive feature of Kuba textile design is the staggering and suspension of the pattern. This characteristic discontinuity makes them quite different from European textiles which usually exhibit either an overall symmetry or continuous repeats of design elements. Instead the offbeat repetitions found in Kuba designs have been likened by scholars to the improvisation and breaks found in jazz music. At the same time the overall effect is one of an orderly decorated surface.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


The Social Life of Kuba Cloth, Michael C. Carlos Museum, June 27, 1998 - February 21, 1999


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2012.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Textile,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed March 21, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7311.

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