Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Describe the shapes and patterns you see on this skirt.

  • Though we are not aware of the specific meaning of the patterns on this Kuba textile, skirts like this were worn by fashionable women during celebrations to display wealth. What do the clothes you wear say about you? What do the patterns or graphics on your favorite clothes represent?

  • Is it unusual to see clothing in an art museum? Why or why not? Why might this skirt belong on display in an art museum?

  • Weaving, in the Kuba culture, is considered men’s work while embroidery and stitching are considered the sole domain of women. What do you think of as “men’s” work and what do you consider “women’s” work? Consider where your ideas about division of labor may originate or what influences them, and whether or not your ideas have changed over time.

  • Why are certain motifs or patterns more valuable than others? Why, for example is a Burberry scarf expensive while a similar scarf from Target is less expensive? What factors may influence or determine the value of clothing?

  • Think of your favorite piece of clothing. Why is that piece of clothing important or special to you? What does this garment communicate about your personality?

  • Do you think that this skirt was an everyday piece of clothing or was it worn for special occasions? Why? How would you feel if you were wearing this skirt?

  • Why do you think raffia (palm leaves) was used to make this skirt?

  • The children in the Kuba culture help their parents with gathering and preparing raffia fibers to make these textiles. Do you have responsibilities at home? If yes, what are those responsibilities?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Explore clothes-making traditions in two African cultures through a comparison of the Cape (linage) (1991.24), which comes from the Ndebele peoples of South Africa and this Skirt with grey applique. What similarities or differences do you see between the Skirt _and the _Cape?

  • Listen to this radio segment. Then, research your favorite article of clothing. Where did its materials come from? Where was it assembled? Consider the difference between a culture that primarily buys its clothes from the world market and one, like the Kuba culture, which makes weaving and embroidery a valued form of art and expression.

  • Cut a sheet of cloth or paper to the measurements of this Skirt to get a sense of its size. View a photographs of Kuba women wearing a skirt. Using the cloth or paper, dress a classmate in a similar way to the photograph. What does it feel like to wear this?

  • Look closely at the motifs and patterns on the Skirt. While Kuba women often used traditional patterns and designs that were handed down, innovation was also valued. Select a pattern that is familiar to you (examples: checkerboard, argyle, stripes, etc.). Draw the pattern on half of a sheet of graph paper, on the other half diverge from the standard pattern. While keeping some aspects of the original pattern, make an innovative design through variations of size, color, and shape.

  • Different members of the Kuba community are assigned to specific tasks in the creation of Kuba textiles. Design a work of art which involves a multi-step process. Divide into small groups and determine which group will complete each task. Following the creation of the work, reflect on the various tasks and the group effort to complete the work.