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Melanin-rich Madras

digitalKENTE KubaNival Tropikal Cover Image

Our NEW KubaNival Tropikal print motif is a celebration of Caribbean carnival culture! We were inspired by all the juicy colors and textures of the Caribbean islands, their history of enslaved Africans, colonial madras prints, and tropical fruits. Discover hints of Kuba textile motifs layered with bright madras-inspired plaids and carnival-like winged feathers within this design motif. Let's take a deeper look into the cultures that inspired our unique KubaNival Tropikal!

Women in Guadeloupe
 
Madras is the name for a distinct plaid-designed cloth and is one of the most used textiles worldwide (GAP, Polo, J Crew). It originates from Madras, India, a bustling city now called Chennai, and was home to the British ran East India Trading Company. Through centuries of trading between North Africa, the Middle East, and the Portuguese in West Africa, this unique plaid textile gained in popularity and status, making the cloth a hot commodity. 
 
By the 18th century, Madras textiles made many Portuguese and African traders quite wealthy. The vibrant colors, uniqueness, and lightweight breathable texture, caused several royals and well-to-do Africans to purchase the fabric. It was even used to barter slaves! In Africa, the cloth was mostly worn by royals in the Igbo tribe from Nigeria. Through the slave trade, they carried the tradition to the Caribbean islands, wearing it on Sundays or during festive seasons. Enslaved women of African descent took a liking to the fabric, wearing it as headscarves to stay cool under the hot Caribbean sun. Historic madras headwrap of women in Guadeloupe
But according to a few sources, like Bwa-Brile the enslaved women were forced to cover their heads, to not entice the slave owners, or forced to wear fabric that represented what plantation they worked for. Eventually the use of the fabric evolved to be part of women's dresses, and in modern times, you can see the cloth used for headwraps, dresses, men's pants, and face masks. From Dominica, to Guadeloupe, to The U.S. Virgin Islands, Madras with it's varied color combinations is now the official traditional fabric for many French and English speaking Caribbean countries! Learn more about Madras history at MadrasMusings.com or here or here!

 

Kuba textiles originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of many areas where Africans were taken from as slaves to work the sugar cane fields in the Caribbean islands. The triangular motifs of kuba textiles were a staple of the Kuba Kingdom and are known to be extremely elaborate and complex. Raffia palm fiber is transformed into cloth by Kuba men, and then elaborate surface designs are created by women of the Kuba people, to create intricate shapes for their ceremonial events and elite royalty. It is said that each design can tell a story of the person wearing the cloth like their social status, age, marital status and character. What a fashion statement!

Feel inspired to turn heads, make a bold statement and feel regal in this richly colorful, intricate KubaNival Tropikal print design!


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