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.)
- Arnold Crane Endowment