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"Hats Off! A Salute to Africa Headwear"
1999-07-18 until 1999-10-17
National Museum of African Art
USA United States of America
Among the most beautiful and creative objects of personal attire worn by African people are innumerable types of headwear fabricated from various materials. Drawing from its collection, the museum pays tribute to both the creative genius of their makers and the status and prestige of those who wear them.
Modifying or adorning the body is a means
through which African peoples express their
collective and individual pride, ideals, aesthetics
and identity. Many African cultures throughout
the continent have long considered the head the
center of ones being--a source of individual and
collective identity, power, intelligence and ability.
Adorning the head as part of everyday attire or
as a statement, therefore, is especially
Certain laborers, such as farmers and
blacksmiths, wear special hats in recognition of
their skills. Some wear hats and headdresses as
emblems of their chiefly or royal status and
prestige and still others wear hats to signify
they have attained a certain rank as members of
particular socio-political governing societies.
The materials used to create headpieces include
cotton, raffia and various locally grown plant
fibers commonly used to make clothing. Imported
cloth is used as well. The feathers and animal
claws, teeth, hair and hide that decorate the
hats imbue the wearer with the special power,
status and strength African peoples often
associate with certain animals. Cowrie shells and
imported glass beads and buttons also signify
wealth and prestige.