Mar 1, 2004
Oct 30, 2009
Oct 30, 2009
Oct 30, 2009

Man's Bwami Prestige Cap (sawamazembe)

Man's Bwami Prestige Cap (sawamazembe)

early to mid-1900s

Plant fiber, seashells, seeds, pods, buttons, and probably cotton

Overall: 35.8 x 26.7 x 19.2 cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1995.211

Location

On view at:

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Nov 10, 2022 - Feb 27, 2023

Did you know?

This prestige cap combines local organic materials and imported machine-made materials like buttons.

Description

Among the Lega people of the eastern Democratric Republic of Congo, headgear was an important indicator of social position. Certain caps, headbands, and headdresses were the exclusive prerogative of the Bwami men's association. This headdress, called sawamazembe, was worn only by high-ranking members of this group. The hat's wig-like form represents a woman's coiffure, illustrating the blurring of gender distinctions among high-ranking Bwami members. The shell ornaments on the front suggest the moon, while buttons and a seed pod provide additional embellishment.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.