Museum quality long Kuba cloth runners from the Congo (many styles)
Kuba textiles are unique in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, for their elaboration and complexity of design and surface decoration. Most textiles are a variation on rectangular or square pieces of woven raffia palm leaf fiber enhanced by geometric designs executed in linear embroidery and other stitches, which are cut to form pile surfaces resembling velvet. The raffia strands are dyed in a variety of earth tones using vegetable dyes. Women are responsible for transforming raffia cloth into various forms of textiles, including ceremonial skirts, ‘velvet’ tribute cloths, headdresses and basketry. Many prestige weavings are dyed with twool, a deep red substance obtained from the heartwood of the tropical trees Pterocarpus sp. and Baphia pubescens. The Kuba believe that twool is imbued with magical and protective properties. When mixed with palm oil, it creates a pomade that is applied to the face, hair and body in a ritual context. According to oral tradition, the Pende were responsible for teaching the Kuba how to weave textiles; the Pende used twool to die their prestige clothes for death rituals.