Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lega, early-mid 20th century
fibers, cowrie shells, beads, elephant tail, cord, Overall: h. 55.90 cm (22 inches). Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2005.56
Hats of different types, sizes, and materials figure prominently in the Lega people’s Bwami association where they indicate status and rank. Cone-shaped hats made of canvas covered with cowrie shells and surmounted by an elephant tail are worn during initiations into kindi, the highest of the five male grades. The might of Bwami members is likened to the elephant’s potentially destructive strength.