20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


Overall (without chin strap): 21 x 21 x 23 cm (8 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 9 1/16 in.) Other (chin strap): 23 cm (9 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Basketry, cowrie and mussel shells, fabric, beads, reeds or quills, wood

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art, Textiles and Fashion Arts



As members of the Lega bwami association, which includes all circumcised adult men and their wives, advance through the association’s hierarchy, different types of hats visually reveal the grade they have attained. The headdresses’ shapes and materials have significance linked to bwami esoteric knowledge. Shells, for instance, allude to the waxing moon, while the elephant-tail bristles recall the animal’s powerful role as a symbol and alter ego of leaders.


Sold by Mr. Kabba to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart