Panel, early–mid–20th century
Rwanda or Burundi; Tutsi peoples
Woven grass and black reed fibers; 63 x 30 in. (160 x 76.2 cm)
Purchase, Miriam Goldfine Gift, 2011 (2011.6)
Woven panels enhanced the domestic interiors of wealthy Tutsi, where they decorated floor and walls. This particular example was likely used as a sleeping area mat. It complements the insika (2010.127) and inyeqamo (2007.186) woven screens in the Museum's collection that defined access to the sleeping area.
This rectangular woven fiber mat is composed of what are thought to be naturally black and beige reeds. Three identical horizontal motifs divide the surface of the mat into four sections. The classic pattern, composed of an interplay of black and natural colored reeds, is known as ishobe. It combines stepped zigzags and projecting triangles. The motifs are defined by black reeds added onto the surface and cut to the appropriate length to form the desired pattern. The reeds are held in place by twined warps in what appears to be grasslike plants. The borders around the perimeter of the mat are created by a fringe of added black reed.