Kuba titleholders would commission local artisans to produce splendidly decorated prestige caps to signal their status. To create this Kuba prestige cap, raffia fibre has been woven into a cone shape. Fine strips of animal hide decorate the surface, which, through their arrangement, create a pattern of alternate colours. The cap features contrasting surface textures throughout, from the tuft of what appears to be flamingo feathers at the top of the hat, to the attached-border of small raffia fibre pompoms at the base. Among the Kuba, the most visible insignia of title holding associated with hats and headdresses is the specific bird feather (lashal) worn by each titleholder. Each title is associated with a particular bird whose characteristics the titleholder is thought to share.
Small dome-shaped raffia caps (laket mishiing) were given to Kuba men upon completion of an initiation rite, signalling their transformation into mature members of Kuba society. These woven raffia caps were based upon the form of a single domed cap, worn on the crown of the head. As a Kuba man moved up the social ladder, his headgear would change. The accumulation of materials, such as animal hair or feathers, on a Kuba man’s hat was a reflection of his accomplishments and upward mobility.
Ex Private Collection, Italy
H (Excl. Stand): 21cm
The Metropolitan Museum
M. J. Arnoldi & C. M. Kreamer (1995) Crowning Achievements: African Arts of Dressing the Head, p. 163