This prestigious hat is a head ornament worn by members of the highest ranks of the bwami secret society governing the lega social structure. This was open to circumcised adults and their wives and instructed its members in terms of moral perfection.
These objects are part of masengo, meaning that they are sacred and can therefore only be worn by initiates. The owner cannot part with it during his lifetime. Bwami has different degrees, with yananio and kindi being the highest.
The materials used vary, they can be clothing buttons, cowrie shells, pearls or cocoa beans. Animal teeth line a cap carefully woven from plant fibers. This type of headgear was originally topped with elephant hair in reference to the destructive power of the animal beneath its imperturbable appearance. This prestigious accessory, prohibited today, was reserved for initiates of the lowest echelon who identified with the animal.
Source: “Initiates”. Ed. Dapper Museum ; “Animal”Dapper Museum.
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