Chief's Hat (Botolo)

A work made of fiber and copper alloy.

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  • A work made of fiber and copper alloy.


Early 20th century


Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central Africa

About this artwork

This striking, well-preserved hat, or botolo, would have served as a critical component of an Ekonda chief’s public attire. Constructed out of woven raffia or cane fibers, it has nine brims in a pagoda-shaped tower and two brass or copper disks projected frontally from its base and upper portion. The disks may have been produced locally or imported from a neighboring group, and their primary function was to indicate wealth and prestige. On ceremonial occasions, these hats would often be treated with a combination of camwood powder and oil, which is what gives many of them their deep reddish hue.
If a chief was the first in his line to rule, he would have to acquire a botolo, but hats of deceased rulers were generally preserved and passed down to their successors. The responsibilities of a chief, or nkumu, included the overseeing of all ceremonies, divinations, and other activities related to the spiritual well-being of his community. He had the exclusive right to the use of prestigious items, of which the botolo is the best known.
—Permanent Collection Object Description

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa




Chief's Hat (Botolo)


Democratic Republic of the Congo




Fiber and copper alloy


49.5 × 24.1 cm (19 1/2 × 9 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Arnold Crane Endowment

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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