This chieftain’s hat (mpu a nzim) has been skilfully woven from raffia fibre into a dome-shaped form. Overlapping strands of darker and lighter coloured strands of raffia create a visually attractive patterned surface, and groups of Olivancillaria shells have been arranged into prominently-placed pompoms.
With its incorporation of prestige materials, the hat would have been worn as a visual emblem of leadership status by Mbala chiefs, land chiefs, or high-ranking dignitaries. These shells, used as a currency by the Yaka, convert economic value into symbolic wealth, as material expressions of power and status.
Ex Private Collection, Italy
H (Excl. Stand): 10cm
M.J. Arnoldi & C.M. Kreamer (Eds.) (1995) Crowning Achievements: African Arts of Dressing The Head, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, p. 102