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Dressing the Head

African Hats

October 23 - December 11, 1999

Hurst Gallery is pleased to announce our new exhibition of African Hats. Dressing the Head incorporates a wide range of forms: crests, helmets, hats, wigs, skullcaps, bonnets, and other African adornments for the head.

Traditional African headwear expresses the diversity of the continent. The hat may serve a religious or ceremonial function or indicate the occupation or office of the wearer in civic, social, or secret society. It may indicate the marital status of the man or woman.

These forms are embellished with dazzling colors and an amazing array of material, including animal horns, cowry shells, feather plumes, elephant hair, boar tusks, shirt buttons, coins, glass beads, metal appliqués, and tassels. The hats themselves are composed of wood, cloth, animal hide, metal, shell, gourd, basketry, and braided hair.

The accompanying illustrations (see images above and below) show examples from the Hurst Gallery exhibition. The horned headdresses, or ipiedza, is worn by male hunters and warriors of the Somba of Northern Ghana. Title-holders among the Kuba in the Democratic Republic of Congo wear prestige hats covered with glass beads and cowry shells, kayleem, in public appearances and ceremonies. The adult Bamileke men of Cameroon wear a cotton hat, ashetu, which has a multitude of projecting cylindrical elements or burls, reinforced with wood to give a three-dimensional effect.

Below are a few examples from the exhibition. Please contact the gallery for further information.

Hat with horns

Hat with horns
Somba, Togo
H: 13.5 in.

Hat with burls
Bamileke, Cameroon
H: 8.5 in.

Dagomba Headdress
Dagomba, Ghana
H: 9.75 in

Yoruba, Nigeria
H: 11.5 in

Diadem, Luba
Democratic Republic of Congo
H: 18.5 in

Lega Headdress
Democratic Republic of Congo
H: 20 in

Kuba Headdress
Democratic Republic of Congo
H: 4 in

Bamileke Headdress
Bamileke, Cameroon
H: 4.25 in

Mbala Headdress
Democratic Republic of Congo
H: 6 in

Bamileke Headdress
Bamileke, Cameroon
H: 8.24 in

Status Headdress of Kuba
Democratic Republic of Congo
H: 5.5 in

Hat with plumes
okot, Kenya
H: 14 in