“Hats and headdresses are a unique and powerful lens through which one can view the human experience.”
The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage, and Spirituality, a national traveling exhibition, organized by International Arts and Artists, Washington, DC, will make its only Southeastern United States stop in Greenville, SC, at the Upcountry History Museum.
Developed by independent ethnographic curator Stacey W. Miller, the exhibition explores the vital role of ceremonial headwear throughout diverse cultural customs, beliefs, and rituals. The exhibition features approximately 89 hats and headdresses from 43 different countries spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America.
Organized in five distinct categories – Cultural Identity; Power, Prestige, and Status; Ceremonies and Celebrations; Spiritual Beliefs; and Protection – the exhibition showcases these mutual themes amid a range of traditions.
The exhibition pays tribute to the stunning diversity of the world’s cultures. The hats and headdresses are part of a private collection of 1300 extraordinary pieces of international headwear that date from the mid to late 20th century.
From headdresses and helmets to turbans and crowns, visitors will explore the vital role of ceremonial headwear throughout diverse cultural customs, beliefs and rituals. Transcending utilitarian purposes, each head covering is a work of art – not merely because of the skill required to make it, but also as a singular expression of creativity and cultural meaning. The profusion of shapes, styles, and materials, as well as the ingenious use of embellishments to decorate the hats, are limited only by imagination.
The beliefs and rituals of these many cultures, and the ceremonial objects that accompany them, ultimately unite an international community. Comparatively, both the Plains Indian feathered war bonnet and the Congolese Misango MaPende crown, both featured in the exhibition, though from vastly different regions and civilizations, represent a position of leadership and status, and only those who have earned the right to wear one may do so.
The Global Language of Headwear exhibition colorfully demonstrates that each distinct society can be viewed through a similar lens of rites of passage, heritage, and identity.