"Karimojo men are divided socially into age groups, which are associated with warrior status. When a boy or man is initiated into a new
age set he shaves his head. When his hair has grown long again it is plastered with mud, which is painted and set with ostrich feathers.
The mud cap and ostrich feathers are symbols of bravery and display his new status." (source)
|A beautiful Karamajong young man's headdress.
Human hair, ostrich feathers, clay, pigment, metal
This headdress is made of clay and lined on the inside with human hair.
It has an elaborate plume of ostrich feathers inserted into metal coils.
SEE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BELOW THE PHOTOS
|EXAMPLES BELOW ARE NOT IN MY COLLECTION
They are for reference purposes
|In the collection of the Brighton & Hove Museum
Uganda, East Africa
hair (human); feather (bird); clay
World Art (WA506828)
On display at Brighton Museum, Body Gallery
This is a headdress made of clay and lined with human hair. It has an elaborate plume of ostrich feathers inserted into metal coils and metal chains
attached to the side. It was created by a Karimojo maker in Uganda during the twentieth century.
Purchased with the aid of the MGC/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the J.H. Green Charitable Trust in 1993 (WA506828)
The headdress was purchased in Nairobi in 1994. It is on display in the Body Gallery, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.
This headdress is based on an elaborate hairstyle worn by Karimojo men at traditionalist initiation ceremonies.
Karimojo men are divided socially into age groups, which are associated with warrior status. When a boy or man is initiated into a new age set he shaves
his head. When his hair has grown long again it is plastered with mud, which is painted and set with ostrich feathers. The mud cap and ostrich feathers
are symbols of bravery and display his new status.
The same process has been carried out to make this removable headdress, which is lined with human hair.
|In the collection of the Musee Dapper - Paris
Clay, wood, feather, beads and hair
H 47cm L 48cm (including feathers)
Inventory ///3 9741
Photo Hughes Dubois
|"Among the Karamojong, Turkana and other related groups, warrior status, as well as, at a later age, the rank of elder, were indicated by the colour of
the ostrich feathers attached to their coiffure. The latter (emedot), which may have been borrowed from their neighbours the Pokot (or Suk), still takes
many long hours of work to produce: moulded in clay, it is now renewed by removing the whole solidified mass of hair from the head. In order to make this
hairstyle, which is intended for young men after their initiation, the back part of the hair is plaited into a thick bun, glued with clay at the nape. In the past,
human hair or vegetable fibres could extend it significantly, as far down as the waist. The front portion is treated with particular care: shaped with grey
ochre, it is decorated with incised motifs and divided into six or eight areas which, once dry, are painted in various colours. Lengths of wire or ox gut are
inserted in order to hold ostrich feathers in place. Other ornamental elements may be added. Among the Karamojong, the shape of the arrangement and
the choice of colours are generally left to the wearer's best judgment, whereas among the Pokot, they are used, together with other accessories, to
distinguish between age sets and social stations.
Although the Karamojong did not reuse their clay coiffures as wigs, other peoples in Uganda and the Southern Sudan, such as the Madi, Acoli, Lango
and "Latuka" (Otuho), used false hair and "helmets" made from hair which had become removable. Some groups kept them for older men only, others for
warriors. These coiffures, trimmed with seeds, beads, metal ornaments, ostrich egg shells or cowries, feathers and other objects, were either, as with the
Karamojong, modelled by solidifying the wearer's hair with clay, lime and grease, or felted by plaiting the hair with fibres. Such arrangements could
eventually be dissociated from the skull and worn separately as headdresses. In the middle of the XIXth century, Samuel Baker provided the first highly
detailed description of the creation of these felted hairstyles among the Latuka - a process which could take several years: "The Latookas wear most
exquisite helmets, all of which are formed of their own hair; and are, of course, fixtures. [...] The thick, crisp wool is woven with fine twine, formed from the
bark of a tree, until it presents a thick network of felt. As the hair grows through this matted substance it is subjected to the same process, until, in the
course of the years, a compact substance is formed like a strong felt, about an inch and a half thick, that has been trained into the shape of a helmet. A
strong rim, of about two inches deep, is formed by sewing it together with thread; [...]. " Again according to Baker, rows of red and blue beads and
cowries covered the felt, a burnished metal plate was fastened to the front, and the whole was topped by ostrich feathers. These valuable ornaments
conferred some prestige upon their owner. Back then, the hair would be removed on the warrior's death at the latest, and formed part of his legacy. A few
decades after Baker's stay with the Latuka, this extraordinary arrangement was replaced with a separately made helmet. This was no longer decorated
with beads and cowries, but covered with ochre in its simplest form, the helmets of renowned warriors being adorned with brass plates, a highly prized
imported commodity which, by then, had replaced the former accessories. At the beginning of the XXth century, a long, thin staff adorned with weaverbird
feathers was fixed to the top of these helmets in order to increase their magnificence still further."
Source: Parures de tete : Hairstyles and headdresses (Musee Dapper)
|Bumi man with elaborate mudpack.
Lower Omo River, southwestern Ethiopia.
These mudpack coiffures, worn only by initiated
males, also symbolically proclaim the courage of
their owners for killing an enemy or dangerous
Photo: Angela Fisher
|From the book: Sleeping Beauties
Mudcap - Rendille ? Pokot ?
Mud, paint, ostrich feathers, wood, aluminum, human hair
26.7 x 25.4 x 17.8 cm
Fowler Museum of Cultural History - FMCH89.366
|The photo above was taken by Michael Auliso with Tribalmania.com
It is a photo of Kip McKesson's booth at the San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts Show 2007. In the photo you will
see an example of a Karamajong headdress with the white ostrich feather on the stand in the center. There was
also a smaller one inside the display case.