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Object Timeline

1905

  • Work on this object ended.

2017

  • We acquired this object.

2019

  • You found it!

Woman's Dance Skirt, ca. 1900

This is a Woman's dance skirt. It is dated ca. 1900 and we acquired it in 2017. Its medium is raffia and its technique is appliquéd and embroidered on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

The Kuba (or Bakuba) comprise approximately 19 ethnic groups in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, organized into lineages according to matrilineal descent. The groups are united in a kingdom ruled by the Bushongo, whose chief is king by divine right—although his mother has historically held a higher status.[1]
Raffia, which is plentiful in the region, is believed to have both protective and harmful qualities, and some Congo groups scarify their bodies with frond markings in its honor.[2] The seven panels of this raffia dance skirt were designed as compositions unto themselves: although there are identifiable recurring motifs, such as overlaid squares, crescent moons, and commas, the panels are irregular and layouts are not repeated from one to the next. Historians have suggested that paneled Kuba skirts were designed to be read solely in the round, or on the wearer’s body.[3] The figural ornamentation in this example is one of the elements that differentiated women’s skirts from men’s, which tended to be more sharply geometric; the patterning of women’s skirts may have been inspired by the scarification symbols women displayed on their bodies.[4]

It is credited Gift of Gail Martin.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 76.2 × 447 cm (30 in. × 14 ft. 8 in.)

Cite this object as

Woman's Dance Skirt, ca. 1900; raffia; H x W: 76.2 × 447 cm (30 in. × 14 ft. 8 in.); Gift of Gail Martin; 2017-63-3

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158845861/ |title=Woman's Dance Skirt, ca. 1900 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=24 March 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>