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Lega Hat Buttons on Basketry Bwami Society Congo Africa

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Title Lega Hat Buttons on Basketry Bwami Society Congo Africa
Type of Object Hat
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of Congo
People Lega
Materials Vegetal fibers, buttons
Approximate Age mid 20th century
Dimensions 7.5 inch diameter x 5 inches tall

Additional Information: Lega hats reveal status among the Bwami secret society which governs most of Lega life. Animals are important in Bwami symbolism, and elephant, pangolin, and hornbill all represent different levels of Bwami. This one is decorated with buttons the Lega got from Europeans. Besides any aesthetic consideration, these buttons added value and prestige to the hat. Hats such as this were worn by the grader members of the Bwami, the Ngandu and Yananio. They were worn during the ceremonies and dances celebrating new graders or initiates.

The buttons were most likely from the clothing of western missionaries!

For a fascinating article with numerous examples, see Elizabeth Cameron's article on Lega Hats in Arnoldi and Kreamer's CROWNING ACHIEVEMENTS-AFRICAN ARTS OF DRESSING THE HEAD. See also an example from the Collection of Marc and Denyse Ginzberg, Sotheby's, Paris, 10 september 2007, fig. 61 A