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Object Timeline

1957

  • We acquired this object.

2013

2020

  • You found it!

Skirt (Democratic Republic of the Congo), late 19th century

This is a Skirt. It is dated late 19th century and we acquired it in 1957. Its medium is raffia and its technique is plain weave, pieced and sewn, with twisted warp fringes. It is a part of the Textiles Department department.

The Teke were famous traders, situated at the river gateway between the Atlantic and the remainder of the Kuba kingdom. This superior trading position meant that they were the first to replace traditional raffia cloths with imported cottons, making skirts like this one particularly rare. Missionary John Weeks, who arrived in the area in 1882, recounted in Among the Primitive Bakongo the incredible fineness of the “palm frondlet” textiles, while Frederick Starr, arriving in 1905, noted the prevalence of imported fabric. Plain raffia squares were used as currency or stitched together to form textiles. Although this rare Teke skirt is unadorned, the seams joining the individual panels reflect the waters that separate the earth from the sky in Teke cosmology, and the fringes are symbols of chiefhood.

It is credited Museum purchase from Au Panier Fleuri Fund.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 111.1 x 182.9 cm (43 3/4 x 72 in.)

Cite this object as

Skirt (Democratic Republic of the Congo), late 19th century; raffia; H x W: 111.1 x 182.9 cm (43 3/4 x 72 in.); Museum purchase from Au Panier Fleuri Fund; 1957-110-1

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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/18411451/ |title=Skirt (Democratic Republic of the Congo), late 19th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 June 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>