The Ekonda are an agrarian people who live the equatorial forest of Democratic Republic of the Congo. This multi-tiered, “Botolo” hat is a crucial component of the Ekonda chief’s attire, worn during public ceremonies. It is hand taylored from culturally indigenous materials, and features several, circular brims molded in a pagoda-formed tower. Additional is a brass (or copper) disk projected frontally from its base. The disk’s primary function is to represent wealth and prestige for its wearer. During cultural rituals, these hats would often be treated with a combination of camwood powder and oil, which renders a deep, crimson hue to its surface. This specific example is marked by a heavy patina – probably due to its storage in a smoke saturated hut. It is in good condition, with natural wear of to the aged, brass plate. As is similar to other African cultures of this region, the hat is preserved and by tradition, passed down to successors. The chief, or “nkumu,” possesses exclusive rights to the use of culturally prestigious objects, of which the “Botolo” is best known.
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