Kuba Cloth History and Production: An African Textile Tradition

Kuba Cloth from the Congo to the world:

Kuba cloth is a unique, handmade textile produced by the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is made by weaving strips of raffia palm leaves together and then decorating them with intricate embroidery and appliqué. The textiles are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful African textiles, and are highly sought after by collectors and designers around the world.

Kuba Cloth as a Symbol of African Cultural Identity and Pride

Kuba cloth originates from the former Kuba kingdom, modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Kingdom is one of the great Bantu empires and involves 17 ethnicities and in this melting pot, the Cloth became a symbol of the region’s prosperity. Prestigious pieces were worn by Kings during traditional ceremonies as a sign of power and status.

Traditionally, the Kuba people have been making cloth for centuries, and the weaving and embroidery is deeply intertwined with their cultural history and identity. The cloth was originally used for clothing, but over time it evolved into a versatile material that could be used for a variety of purposes, including ceremonial garments, wall hangings, and upholstery.

Kings wearing kuba cloth

Exploring the Techniques Used in Kuba Cloth


Kuba cloth is made using the inner bark of the raffia tree, which is harvested, flattened, and then dyed with natural pigments. Then, the flattened fibers are then woven together to create a raffia cloth that serves as a base for the embroidery. Afterwards, in a physically demanding procedure, they weave the firbers together on a single heddle loom. Moreover, women wet it and pound it with rocks to make the sheet soft and flexible. The length of the fibers limits the sheet’s size. The cloths are around 26 inches square. 

Kuba cloth weaving technique


The embroidery is highly valued in the art world for its intricate designs and cultural significance. Thats why it is considered one of the most important forms of African textile art, and examples of Kuba cloth can be found in museums and private collections around the world. The embroidery is done by women, traditionally pregnant women. The intricate geometric patterns that kuba cloth is known for are achieved by using different types of stitches on a raffia base. There are mainly three techniques used to create the improvised patterns:

Cut Pile: 

After anchoring a small fiber to the base cloth, the raffia is cut. The texture of cut-pile stitching resembles velvet and is dense and plush.


A long fiber strand is used in these stitches. The stem stitch, with its looped spiral effect, is the most common of these stitches. The stitches create bold lines and outline areas filled with cut-pile embroidery.


Patterns are created by sewing a different color of raffia cloth to the base cloth. 

The Intricate Designs

Natural Dyes

Another important element of Kuba cloth is its use of color. Most of them are produced in earthy, natural tones such as brown, black, and beige, but brighter colors such as red and orange are sometimes used as well. Naturally, the dyes are all natural from vegetable dyes or minerals.

raffia used for kuba cloth

Inspired by Nature

Imagination and the environment inspire the Kuba. They believe in a number of supernatural powers which activates spells, witchcraft and the presence of the dead. The underlying Kuba myth sees life and humanity at the boundary of the natural and the supernatural. Thus, rectilinear lines in Kuba art represent the patterns of nature. Under certain circumstances, these lines break what we perceive as geometric order, both in nature and in art.

kuba cloth inspiration

The High-Quality Cloth

Kuba cloth has a unique, tactile texture due to the use of raffia palm fibers and the complex weaving technique used to create the design. Each piece varies in color, pattern, and texture based on the individual techniques used by the weaver.


Preserving the Legacy of Kuba Cloth: Support for Artisans and Sustainable Practices




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Kuba Cloth Today

Today, the cloth is still produced by hand using traditional methods, and is recognized as an important cultural artifact and art form. However, the production is at risk due to industrialization and environmental degradation, as well as a lack of support for traditional artisans. 

What We Do

By buying directly from artisans or cooperatives, your money goes straight to the source and supports sustainable livelihoods in the villages. Additionally, it’s important to educate consumers about the cultural significance of the cloth and help create a market for ethical and sustainable products.

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