Textile, cloth, fiber


20th Century


Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo


Raffia, pigment
24 3/16 x 21 7/8 in. (61.4 x 55.5 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.
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On View



“Textile,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://digitalprojects.carlos.emory.edu/items/show/7340.


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