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Hat (Botolo)

A work made of fiber and copper alloy.

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  • A work made of fiber and copper alloy.


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.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Hat (Botolo)


Democratic Republic of the Congo (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Fiber and copper alloy


49.5 × 24.1 cm (19 1/2 × 9 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

The Art Institute of Chicago, Arnold Crane Endowment

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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