Chief's hat (botolo)

Ekonda peoples and neighboring groups
Early 20th century
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General Description

The botolo is a coiled basketry hat composed of several horizontal brims that increase in size from top to bottom. Made of plant fibers and often colored with camwood powder mixed with oil, the botolo is adorned with precious brass or copper disks. During the 19th to early 20th century, these metals were used as currency. The metal discs signify wealth and prestige.

Village chiefs (nkumu) among the Ekonda and neighboring groups wear the botolo as an insignia of office. It associates them with the powers of the ancestors, important ritual functions, and divination. A chief who is the first in his line must buy the hat. If he is descended from a chief, he inherits it from his predecessor.

Excerpt from

African Headwear: Beyond Fashion, Label text, 2011.