Overskirt with wavy edge (ntshakakot)

Kuba peoples, Bushoong group
early 20th century
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General Description

Aristocratic women wore a skirt like this one as a wrapper over an even longer skirt on very special occasions. They secured the skirts with a belt embroidered with cowries, which served as currency before the introduction of coins and paper money. The skirts were produced in stages by male weavers and female embroiders and were expensive to obtain.

This overskirt appliquéd with raffia cloth patches and imported cotton ticking has a cut-pile border edged with an encased flexible reed. First, men wove the raffia cloth, and then women embroidered patches. An early visitor to the Kuba Kingdom noted that patches functioned both as decoration and to patch holes that resulted from the raffia cloth being pounded until it was supple. The patches were named according to their shapes. For example, the L or comma shape is called shina mboa (“the tail of a dog”). In Western countries, ticking was used to cover mattresses, but in Africa, it was a luxury item.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 248-249

  • Roslyn Walker, Add to, Take Away: Artistry and Innovation in African Textiles, Label text, 2014.