Tiered hat with brass discs (botolo)

Ekonda peoples
20th century
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General Description

Village chiefs (nkumu) among the Ekonda and neighboring groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo wear a tiered hat (botolo) as an insignia of office and an association with the powers of the ancestors, important ritual functions, and divination. The botolo is a coiled basketry hat composed of several horizontal brims that increase in size from top to bottom. Made of raffia fibers and often colored with camwood powder mixed with oil, it is adorned with brass or copper disks. Copper, brass, and iron were used as currency in the Belgian Congo in the 19th to early 20th centuries. The presence of metal disks on the botolo signifies wealth and prestige.

A chief who is the first in his line must buy the botolo; if he is descended from a chief, he inherits his predecessor's "crown." In addition to wearing a botolo, Ekonda chiefs carry a wavy-edged scepter.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 74-75.