By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)
The Kuba kingdom of central Democratic Republic of the Congo, which consists of several diverse peoples, is well-known for the production of cloths made of raffia, a fiber gathered from leaves of raffia palm trees. Long skirts of woven raffia are worn by men and women as signals of wealth and status, particularly at important ceremonies, such as funerals, and at the installments of leaders. The production of these skirts, which are worn wrapped around the body several times and secured with a belt, required the labor of many people. Men weave the cloth, and women decorate it with embroidery and applique (sewing patches of one fabric onto another). Often several people make separate panels, which are then joined to form one long skirt.