Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Overall: 26 x 16 x 18 cm (10 1/4 x 6 5/16 x 7 1/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Basketry, cowry shells, bird beak, mussel shells, buttons, patina
Not On View
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.
1992, sold by Kabba, Cambridge, MA, 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)
Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart