Design Threads from the Congo….

One of the interesting things we find when selecting treasures from Africa for our Gallery is the threads we find that link and influence communities and design trends. 

A point in question is that of the traditional raffia and cut pile Kuba cloths made by Congolese groups living in the Congo in Central Africa.  The symbols and designs are of an ancient African tradition of weaving that was once widespread across the whole of Central Africa and used to recognise clan ancestors in the land of the dead.  They were also woven by young woman to mark their marriage and departure from their family village, with the symbols on these cloths representing landmarks and features of their childhood village.

Kuba cloth has of late been making an appearance in some of the world’s top design stores and glossy magazines.  The following two images are of well known interior photographer Simon Upton’s own house where he uses Kuba cloth very effectively and liberally with the rooms having a strong African feel.  (Image courtesy of The World of Interiors by Simon Upton).

This next image shows contemporary and traditional decor in an interesting mix, with a Kuba cloth cushion sitting quite comfortably amongst both styles.  (Courtesy of Elle Magazine).

I buy Kuba cloth from a trader in the Congo, whom I meet annually in a decidedly dubious old colonial hotel of current disrepute in central Harare, from Eugene Nkonju, a French speaking national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Eugene is a trader in fabrics and masks, buying directly from the communities in his homeland and travelling through Africa selling to collectors like ourselves.

These images are of some of our own Kuba cloth purchased from Eugene that we have in the Gallery. It prices at $135 per metre and comes in various lengths.

Recently Julia Whyte our talented stylist came back from Wellington very excited to have found a couple of sample swatches of Kuba design prints from an international fabric house range.  You can see the similarities, however, this design copy (I wonder if the Kuba people were credited?) is selling for only $300 per metre!  This is why we love our authentic original pieces and value them for what they are but also recognise their stature in the wonderful world of design.

Finally as always, a priceless Archie dog acknowledging the design detail of our Kuba cushions! 

Until next week, thank you for your reading time.  Louise and all at Birdwoods Gallery x


About Birdwoods

My husband and I are the owners and operators of Birdwoods - a well known visitor attraction 3km out from Havelock North. We moved to New Zealand 14 years ago from Zimbabwe where in another life we owned a farm in Africa! View all posts by Birdwoods

2 responses to “Design Threads from the Congo….

  • Louise Stobart

    For those of you who are good enough to subscribe to our Blog – it looks better read off our website, rather than through the email!

  • Jill Hodgkinson

    I have been to Birdwoods many times and admired both the kuba cloth and the cushions, they are gorgeous!! – very reasonably priced considering all the work that goes into them.

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