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Feather Headdress

Accession Number
2014/2.78.3

Title
Feather Headdress

Artist(s)

Object Creation Date
19th century - 20th century

Medium & Support
feathers, fabric and palm fiber

Dimensions
17 1/2 in x 15 in (44.45 cm x 38.1 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communications in memory of Warren M. Robbins

Subject matter
In the Cameroon Grassfields, hats and caps acted as signifiers of status. When all men covered their heads, most wore plain black caps. In the past, when slavery was in place, slaves were prohibited from wearing hats or caps. Titled or elite men wore more elaborated hats that varied in their form and the materials used. In addition to the shape of the hat denoting a man’s status in society, the materials used also contributed to the level of prestige represented in a hat.

Feather hats or headdresses, such as this one, would have been an important part of ceremonial regalia. Lead dancers often wore and continue to wear these hats at festivals. Certain feathers used to only be found in the hats of elite men, such as the red tail feathers from grey parrots or feathers from turaco birds. Similar hats made from red feathers were often worn by members of the Kuosi society during ceremonial events and festivals. By tying feathers to raffia splits attached to a raffia cap, the hats are made to be collapsable. When not in use, they can then be hung from the rafters.

References Cited:
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
A headdress made of woven raffia palm fibers in the shape of a cap and decorated with dark purple and green feathers. The feathers point upward and outward from the cap, while the center of the headdress has a bundle of large, dark feathers. 

Primary Object Classification
Costume and Costume Accessories

Primary Object Type
hat

Collection Area
African

Rights
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
masquerades
prestige
social status
symbols of office or status
wealth

1 Related Resource

Lesson Plan: See / Think / Wonder
(Part of: Pre-Visit Materials)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved