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

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kuba peoples

Hat and pin

Fiber, iron

H. 6.35 cm (2 1/2 in)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Brown, 1974.87a-b

Traditionally, a laket (raffia hat) was worn by all Kuba men, pinned to a tuft of hair on top of their head. This basketry cap was their most basic form of headgear, made in unadorned styles such as this one, as well as in more ornate variations. The most basic lakets are used in initiation ceremonies to indicate the new status of young men as they become adults, part of the change in attire that marks their emergence from initiation camps. More elaborate types, decorated with shells, knotted fibers, animal fur, and other materials, mark various ranks in the Kuba hierarchy. Today, although many Kuba men choose to wear Western-style clothing, the laket is still worn as a symbol of ethnic identity.