Nationality & Life Dates:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Royal Hat (Mpu)
Late nineteenth–early twentieth century
3 7/8 inches
Gift of Mrs. Pauline Lathrop Shomler
On View - Wieland Pavilion, Lower Level, Gallery 102, African Collection
Made of knotted raffia or pineapple-leaf fiber, hats such as this one were worn by political leaders throughout the region of the former Kingdom of the Kongo (founded ca. 1400), which flourished along the coastal region of central Africa. The finely detailed geometric patterns of this hat resemble those woven into the beautiful velvet-like raffia textiles worn by Kongo royalty and formerly used as currency throughout the kingdom. The geometric patterns of Kongo hats, textiles, and mats were associated with the maze-like layout of the royal palace and streets of the capital.