African Headwear: Beyond Fashion
August 14, 2011–January 1, 2012
African Headwear: Beyond Fashion, an exhibition of approximately fifty objects from the Museum’s collection of African art, internationally acclaimed as one of the top five of its kind in the United States, explores the way in which headwear signifies status in traditional African societies. Often made of unusual materials, such as the skin from a pangolin (spiny anteater), wood and copper, various types of nutshells, lion mane, and human hair, African headwear can also include glass beads, plastic buttons, and ostrich feathers used in unfamiliar ways.
For example, a sacred crown worn by Yoruba kings in Nigeria is lavishly beaded and adorned with sculpted birds and modeled human faces. Tiered basketry hats worn by Ekonda chiefs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo feature hammered brass discs. Baule chiefs in the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) wear velvet pillbox-style hats on which symbolic gold-leaf ornaments are attached.
Among the exhibition’s highlights, which also include significant works from local private collections, is a work from the Lega, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a man wearing a hat adorned with elephant tails would be recognized as belonging to the highest level of the association.
Another hat is something a Himba bride from southern Africa would wear on her wedding day. Made of soft calfskin imbued with butter and red ocher and decorated with iron beads, its large earflaps prevent the bride from looking in any direction but forward—toward her new husband’s home.
African Headwear: Beyond Fashion is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and curated by Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Diviners headdress (nkaka), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tabwa, mid-20th century, leather, fiber, beads, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation, 1999.62
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
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