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Headdress (sawamazembe), 20th century
Democratic Republic of the Congo; Lega
Fiber, shell, buttons, cowries, H: 18 in, DIAM: 11 in
Purchase 2007 Louis Bamberger Bequest Fund  2007.26.1
Not On View
Interpretation: Headdresses are the primary way Lega men publicly distinguish their status in Bwami, a graded, socio-political organization open to all Lega adults. Worn by members of the highest level, the hat known as sawamazembe imitates the hairstyle of a high-ranking woman and symbolizes the female power that, in combination with maleness, is needed for leadership. The hat, surmounted by elephant tail (mukuba wa bifungo) and adorned with cowries or beads, signifies that its wearer has just entered the society's highest grade.
Exhibition History:
"Arts of Africa," permanent galleries, Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey (installed 2008).

"Power Dressing: Men's Fashion and Prestige in Africa", Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey (October 19, 2005 - January 22, 2006); Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York (April 2 - May 28, 2006)

Keywords: Headdress