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Woman's Hat (Isicholo)

A work made of human hair, twine, cloth, and pigment.

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  • A work made of human hair, twine, cloth, and pigment.


20th century


South Africa
Eastern and Southern Africa

About this artwork

In many African cultures, hats represent an extension of traditional hairstyles and can signify cultural, social, and personal meanings. The form of the isicholo, or married woman’s hat, developed out of a 19th-century conical hairstyle that was worn as a sign of respect to one’s husband and his family, in addition to serving as a public symbol of married status. In the early 20th century, a removable hat like this one replaced the hairstyle. This hat, with its flaring disk-like shape, is constructed of human hair. The reddish hue—associated with beauty and femininity—is the result of the application of a red ocher and fat mixture colorant.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa


Northern Nguni


Woman's Hat (Isicholo)


South Africa (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.



Human hair, twine, cloth, and pigment


17.8 × 50.8 cm (7 × 20 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Donald Young and Shirley Weese Young

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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