Among the indigenous peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, headdresses have long been worn as a sign of cultural identity and social status.
Imbued with symbolism, they are an art form unto themselves, differing widely from culture to culture.
During royal court affairs, tribal chiefs and dignitaries in the Cameroonian Kingdoms wear a spectacular headdress known as the Tyn, or Juju hat. Woven onto a raffia base, its long feathers splay out into huge circles, making the Juju hat a piece of impactful wall art.
The highly individualized hats of the Lega People from the Democratic Republic of Congo on the other hand, are completely different. Small, precious and conical in shape, with an emphasis on a central decorative protrusion sometimes incorporating a bird’s beak, Lega hats are densely decorated with shells, buttons and other artifacts, covering a woven raffia base.
The “Botolo” or chief’s hat, from the Ekonda People of the Democratic Republic of Congo are highly idiosyncratic raffia hats, built up into a pagoda-like tower of successively smaller hats, stacked on top of each other. Despite their deep roots in tribal tradition, these hats resemble a surrealist sculpture: a hat, upon a hat, upon a hat, upon a hat, until one imagines reaching the sky. The large polished metal disks that are often attached to the overall structure only add to the impact of these magical objects.