Ashetu Ceremonial Hat

Like many other cultures worldwide, the Bamum and Bamileke people of Cameroon, Central Africa considered the human head an important site of appreciation because it was believed to house one's spirit and intellect. As such, its aesthetic and symbolic decoration became an integral part of their tribal culture and hats were worn during ceremonies to indicate the wearer's social status and occupation. The size, shape and materials used to make the hat communicated hierarchy. The Ashetu, in particular, is known as a prestige hat and is reserved for high ranking men and elite dignitaries.

The Ashetu is made with woven hemp fibers using a looping technique known as 'knotless knitting,' considered one of the oldest textile construction methods. The crocheted burls each contain a small wooden peg to maintain its unique shape. It is said to imitate an old traditional hairstyle once worn by ranking officials and still featured on some sculptural works. Additional adornments such as cowry shells, trade beads and feathers further emphasized the wealth and status of the wearer.