Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1884 Kuba noble
Subject: noble
Culture: Bushoong, Konda
Setting: Kuba kingdom, central Africa 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)





* Fashion, costume, and culture 2004 v2 p425
​"In the present-day nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo the Kuba people weave a decorative cloth called Kuba cloth.  Although this tradition is believed to be ancient, the oldest surviving examples of the cloth are dated back to the seventeenth century.  Men weave the fabric out of raffia fibers, from a palm plant, and women apply colorful tufts in bold geometric designs.  An entire social group is involved in the production of the cloth, from gathering the fibers, weaving the cloth, dyeing the decorative strands, to applying the embroidery, appliqué, or patchwork.  Natural dyes were traditionally used, but man-made dyes are now used.
    "The embroidery on Kuba designs are stitched to the cloth and snipped to make a dense pile.  There are hundreds of designs for Kuba cloth that have been handed down through the generations.  However, each design can be embellished by the individual weaver.  Appliqués are pieces of raffia cloth embroidered over the top of the base cloth.  Patchwork involves stitching together smaller pieces of raffia cloth to create a whole garment.  Appliqué and patchwork designs may have been created as a decorative method for patching holes."




* Geary/Xatart 2007 p173
"Kuba short swords (ikul) appeal to collectors for the engraved lines on their copper alloy blades, finely inlaid brass on their wooden handles, and their connection to Kuba royalty.  A sword with an iron blade, a wooden handle, and a sheath covered with European brass furniture tacks comes from the Ekonda peoples in the central DRC and demonstrates how successfully African artists integrated foreign media into their designs.  Like buttons, beads, and other imports from Europe, these rare tacks adorned prestigious objects, indicating the owners' importance in society."

* Capwell 2009 p210 (describing a Konda shortsword, mid-19th century)
"This handsome knife was produced by the Konda of Haute-Zaire.  Although its general shape commends it to close fighting, there is no doubt that in peaceful times it would have doubled as a particularly useful general-purpose knife."

​* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Iron headed spear (1919.28.9)
"Kuba men usually travelled armed with knives" ...

​​* Pitt Rivers Museum online > ​Ikul (1907.21.25)
"All adult Kuba men carried the ikul in historical times. As occurred in many other cultures, the sword served as a symbol of adult masculinity. The Kuba are notable for their skills in blacksmithing and the importance in which they hold the community's blacksmith. Smithing was (alongside weaving and a select few other arts) considered a royal art. This explains why the bearing of arms was regarded by the Kuba not only as a cultural symbol of class, manhood and warriorhood, but also of kingship.
    "There are certain kinds of ikul (those bearing a conical pommel) which were first designed and created by King Shyaam aMbul aNgoong in the early 17th century, and which are exclusively carried by those Kuba of the ruling Bushoong clan as a symbol of peaceful reign. That a weapon should serve as a symbol of peace may seem confusing, but this accurately reflects the fact that peace can often only be guaranteed by a government possessing effective military force."