Dress

By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

CameroonBabanki peoples

Chief’s cap

Cotton, wool

H. 19.7 cm (7 3/4")

Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Eleanor Clay Ford Fund for African Art, F78.44

All over the world, people wear hats, crowns, and other forms of headgear to indicate their status and their profession or simply to adorn themselves. In Africa, hats and head ties are often an important element of daily and ceremonial attire. This Babanki hat, called ashetu, is made of looped and woven cotton and was likely worn by a man of high status. Like the other kingdoms of Cameroon, Bamileke was highly stratified and so developed a rich tradition of clothing and other personal adornments that reflect the many positions held by the royal family, members of the court, and lesser officials. In the field photograph the king is wearing just such a hat. 

Enthronment of Jinabo II, the late King of Kom, Northwest Province of Cameroon. Photo by Hans-Joachim Koloss.