Artists from the Shoowa chiefdom, part of the Kuba Kingdom, are particularly known for their fine textile designs that could be amassed as a way to display one’s status or accumulate wealth.
The stages of textile production and adornment are a collaborative effort among all members of the Kuba society of the Kasai region, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A fine cloth (left) and skirt (right) are tightly woven with fibers from raffia palm leaves, which is the responsibility of men. Women then add designs using various embroidery and looping techniques.
To create the plush texture—Kasai velvet—the artist loosely loops a thread between the front and back of a textile. These loose ends are cut, leaving dense areas similar to velvet that were prized by royal courts both in the Kuba area and in Europe as early as the eighteenth century.