Kuba Hat

kuba hat
This hat is from the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  After the completion of initiation rites, many Kuba men wear a simple cap on the crown of their head known as a laket. Lakets are woven from raffia fiber in a circular shape with four lobes along the bottom edge.  The laket serves as a symbol of cultural identity and is an important accessory for ritual occasions like funerals or initiations.  This hat is distinguished from a basic laket by the four large rounded tufts of raffia on each lobe and the addition of feathers.  Hats like this one are one part of the extensive regalia worn by titled Kuba soldiers known as iyol.

Feathers are an important part of many Kuba hats and headdresses because the type of feather is connected to the title or rank of the person wearing it.  The highest-ranking men wear eagle feathers, as they are the most powerful bird in the daytime sky.  Although we do not know what type of feathers these are, some soldiers are allowed to wear eagle feathers, but they must wear them horizontally like those shown here rather than standing vertically.

This hat is more than 100 years old and requires conservation work to stabilize it before it can be exhibited.  It is the subject of our 2021 Conservation Fund campaign.  Learn how you can give today!

Categories: Artifacts