This ceremonial hat, bearing an animal crest, is beautifully adorned with spiral, circular and triangular beaded decorations in prominent colours of green, brown, red and white. A beaded open-mouthed leopard, crouches on top of the headdress. Among the Bamileke, the leopard is a symbol of leadership and power. In Bamileke art, the arrangement of beads into triangular patterns (known as 'isoceles triangles') relate to the spots of the leopard. A face, composed of geometric designs, features at the front of the hat.
Throughout the Cameroon Grasslands, headgear and other forms of dress convert material wealth into symbolic capital within a political economy of prestige. Bamileke head adornments are fashioned from an array of materials ranging from exotic bird feathers, porcupine quills and glass beads to shells, animal skulls and human hair. On formal occasions, hats serve as a ‘material language’ that communicates the social status of the wearer and their sphere of influence within the community.
Every detail of this Bamileke king’s beaded headdress has been carefully considered to preserve and enforce hierarchy. Beads, associated with high rank, reference the king’s control of the trade and use of glass beads.
Ex Private Collection, Italy
H (Excl. Stand): 27cm