Kuba Textiles: Geometry in Form, Space and Time; Visual Art Review

April 10, 2015
The Neuberger Museum of Art is conveniently located amongst the creative minds at SUNY Purchase but not so convenient to its students  after all. Considering the museum’s location in the center of the campus near the well- praised Performance Arts Center and alongside the Visual Arts building blooming with creative works and a state of the art library facility, the Neuberger seems to be overshadowed – tucked away like a pearl in a shell.

The second my eyes glazed into the interior, I sighed in relief after an almost disappointing climax after a long session of walking back and forth trying to located the entrance. The museum’s interior is warm, relaxed and has a conventional flow to it, as if our feet could walk gracefully around the museum’s galleries to view its beautiful and unique art collections.

Currently, during March to June, the Neuberger displays a fascinating part of world history and the heritage of the Kuba people who live today in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The museum elegantly uses it vast and modern interior space to display the Kuba’s renowned raffia cloths which are presented in unique props, long glass displays, and tall wall hangings. The interior was dark yet the spotlight shined on the old raffia cloths in contrast so that the works would illuminate gracefully in detail. Though there is a lack of description from the museum, the cloths and surrounding atmosphere creates somewhat of an emotional feel towards its history. It was hard to imagine how these simple cloths would be of such importance. But the more I looked and walked amongst the black and white pictures of the Kuba’s lifestyle, the more I understood the importance of such a simple invention, yet highly regarded in the Kuba culture. Their commitment towards the skills of their arts was appreciated and inspirational.

The Kuba’s keen details in craftsmanship and textile was well- known throughout Africa and Europe during the European exploration in the 19th century. Many European patrons never visited Africa but collected the Kuba textiles and crafts. The leaders of the Kuba people at the time understood how important and impactful their arts were and welcomed any visitors view, learn and export their work . The exhibition at the Neuberger has a large collection of  skirts worn by the Kuba men and women during ceremonies, rich in organized forms and the use of eye-popping colors – almost modern- like,  timeless.  Despite their unique patterns and style, the works are handmade and intricately detailed with skills passed down from many generations. The ceremonial clothes are long and when the person is being dressed the cloth is wrapped around the person in precise ways according to the occasion.

The Neuberger museum is located within SUNY Purchase’s opened minded and creative community. The Kuba exhibition now showing is a good presentation of art history and appreciation, worthwhile for both an enjoyable and educational visit.

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