ZULU WEDDING HAT FROM M’SINGHA DISTRICT, KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
This type of headdress is called “Isicholo”. It is a large, braided hat made of vegetable fibres and hair, with a diameter of about 40-55 cm and coated with a mixture of fat and red ochre.
The shape of these hats is reminiscent of the original conical hairstyle that indicated the maturity and marital status of Zulu women. It was towards the end of the 19th century that Zulu culture introduced hats as an alternative to the traditional headdress.
As soon as a young girl knew who she was going to marry, she let her hair grow, cut it, kept it, and mixed it with a structure of string and basketry. In doing so, she was making a hat from her own hair. Just before the wedding ceremony, the finished hat was coated with grease and red ochre by the women leaders of the community who entrusted it to the groom.
The Isicholo then played a role in the “ukukhehla” ceremony in which the bride and groom exchanged gifts and thanks before the actual wedding. For most of the ceremony, the hat (or originally the bride’s hair) was protected by a white cloth scarf. At the appropriate time of the wedding songs, the groom would remove the shawl, pin a note to the headdress and hand it over to his bride-to-be.
Thereafter, she wore this hat daily as a sign of her status as a married woman. The hat was one of the few ornaments worn by married women who, although they belonged to a culture where beading played an extremely important symbolic role, hardly ever wore one.
The use of these hats was reserved for women of higher rank.
Around the 1950s, the tradition of Isicholo hats died out. Nowadays, only older women still sometimes wear their hats at special ceremonies. An imported scarf is usually tied over the hat to prevent the ochre pigment from rubbing off on the clothing.
Height of the base (adjustable): 90.5cm
Very nice quality specimen, perfectly circular, cleaned, without lacks or stains.