Tribal art > Headdress Hat > Lega headdress
Lega headdress with hornbill crest (N° 21808)
Animal symbolism in the " primitive African art " of the Lega
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This type of head adornment is worn by members of the highest ranks of the bwami secret society governing the lega social structure, open to circumcised adults and their wives and who educate their adherents in terms of moral perfection. The hornbill would be, according to E.L. Cameron, associated with the ambition of an individual who does not measure the cost.
These items are part of masengo , meaning that they are sacred and therefore can only be worn by initiates. The owner cannot part with it during his life.
The materials used vary, they could be buttons of clothes, cowries, pearls or cocoa beans. On a cap carefully braided in natural fibers, this head covering is entirely covered with cowries, barter money originally imported from the Indian Ocean by Hausa merchants. This cap was once topped with elephant hair in reference to the destructive power of the animal under an imperturbable appearance. This prestigious accessory, prohibited nowadays, was reserved for initiates of the last echelon who identified with the animal.
Source: "Insiders" . Ed. Dapper Museum ; "Animal" Dapper Museum.