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Beaded Hat

Accession Number

Beaded Hat


Artist Nationality

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
cloth, string, and beads

5 1/8 in x 20 7/8 in (13 cm x 53 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis

Subject matter
The Kuosi society, previously for warriors, is open to titled men and those who can afford to purchase entry. Member dance at funerals, state occasions, and society meetings. The elephant masks danced by members are called mbap nteng, mbap mteng or tukum, while the society and masks are called aka by western Bamileke peoples. While the elephant no longer inhabits the Grassfields region of Cameroon, it is still a powerful symbol of the king. Elephant masks, with human facial features, large ears, and a long trunk have been called “things of money”, as the beads and cowrie shells used to decorate the masks were used as currency prior to German colonization. Many of the patterns found on the masks are geometric. Some prominently feature isosceles triangles, which have been interpreted as leopard spots. The leopard, like the elephant, is associated with royal power and authority. Caps or crests are often worn with mbap nteng, including circular feather headdresses and beaded disc-shaped caps, like this object. This type of cap is thought to be worn by the highest ranking member of the Kuosi society.

Homberger, L. 2008. Cameroon: Art and Kings. Zürich: Museum Rietberg.
Northern, Tamara. 1984. The Art of Cameroon. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Page, Donna. 2007. A Cameroon World: Art and Artifacts from the Caroline and Marshall Mount Collection. New York: QCC Art Gallery Press.
Pemberton, John III. 2008. African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment. Northampton, Mass.: Smith College Museum of Art.

Physical Description
This is a beaded hat with a large, disc-shaped top. The bottom of the hat is a narrow band with blue and white beads in a triangular design. The edge of the top of the hat is bound with red fabric. The top of the hat is decorated in various geometric patterns with white, yellow, pink, green, and blue beads. 

Primary Object Classification
Costume and Costume Accessories

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
Elephantidae (family)
beadwork (visual works)
royalty (nobility)
social status
symbols of office or status

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted