Bamileke Ashetu Hat
This sort of hat is generally reserved for elite males as well as a very limited number of elite women.
Origin: Grasslands Cameroon
Approx Age: late 20th century, but used
Materials: wool & wood
Dimensions cm: 18 x 12 approx
Ref. Number: 1631
The work that goes into making these hats is quite incredible, each ‘fingerling’ has a small stick inside and is knitted/crocheted around it or made and put in after, astonishing to really look at how these are constructed.
There are several types of hats worn in the Cameroon Grasslands, and this particular type is an A
In Cameroon, hats are one of the oldest and most important parts of the national dress. There are several types of hats worn in the Cameroon Grasslands, and this particular type is an Ashetu or a prestige hat. This sort of hat is generally reserved for elite males as well as a very limited number of elite women. Fitting snuggly on the head, the hat supports the striped projections or burls that are on both sides. The whole crown of the hat may be covered with burls or, as in this example, it may be divided into the left and right sides by vertical lines of colour. The burls reflect the tufted hairstyle worn by high-ranking men in Cameroon culture.
The museum has a small collection of African hats primarily made out of raffia with a basket-weave technique. This Cameroon hat, however, represents a very different technique: crocheted wool with wood-reinforced burls. Not only is it stylistically different, but it is also geographically distinctive from others, similar hats in the collection, most of which originate from Zaire (known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). This proposed acquisition also adds to the museum’s larger collection of men’s and women’s hats spanning several centuries and continents that most often relates to the technique of embroidery.
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