Woman's Head Wrap (Nigeria), early to mid-20th century
Yoruba Complete
A married woman must wear a head wrap, or gèlè, in order to feel fully and properly dressed. The manner in which she wraps her gèlè is a personal creative expression. With each wearing, the seven-foot length of cloth is folded, pleated, pinched, tucked, and spread into a new form. Re-tying the wrap each time...
Bogolanfini Woman's Wrapper (Mali), mid-20th century
Magic Mud
The simple name “mud cloth” scarcely does justice to the mastery of chemistry needed for the multi-step production of these dyed cloths. The deep brown color is created using iron-rich mud, fermented for over a year. But the fabric must be pre-treated before to allow the mud to function as a dye, and the motifs...
Man's Hat (ashetu) (Cameroon), mid- to late 20th century
Hat Hair
The spiky projections on each side of the ashetu hat reflect the tufted hairstyles once worn by high-ranking men, frequently represented in sculpture. They can also be interpreted as physical manifestations of the inner head, considered to be the center of intelligence and spirituality. The ashetu hat is worn by the Fon or king, at...
Man's Cap (laket) (Democratic Republic of the Congo), late 19th–early 20th century
Full Dress Uniform
If you think pompoms are whimsical, think again. This photograph, from the remarkable Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives at the National Museum of African Art, shows titled soldiers known as iyol, who have earned the exclusive right to wear pompoms on their hats. [1] Elisofon, the famously colorful American photojournalist and filmmaker, traveled extensively around Africa...
Kente Prestige Cloth (Ghana), early to mid-20th century
Juneteenth (Emancipation Day)
Kente cloth is recognized around the world as a symbol of African identity and pride. But these colorful and majestic cloths were originally worn exclusively by members of the powerful ruling court of the Asante. A large community of artisans work in the village of Bonwire in the service of the royals to create the...
Flying Liveries
When did you first see the Alitalia livery? A group of planes wearing the Alitalia livery It was designed by Walter Landor in 1967, working from his original headquarters, a retired ferryboat moored in San Francisco called The Klamath. He had already gained a strong reputation for original ideas about designing brands with just the...