Village chiefs (nkumu) among the Ekonda and neighboring groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo wear a tiered hat (botolo) as an insignia of office and an association with the powers of the ancestors, important ritual functions, and divination.(32) The botolo is a coiled basketry hat composed of several horizontal brims that increase in size from top to bottom. Made of raffia fibers and often colored with camwood powder mixed with oil, it is adorned with brass or copper disks. Copper, brass, and iron were used as currency in the Belgian Congo in the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. The presence of metal disks on botolo signifies wealth and prestige. A chief who is the first in his line must buy the botolo; if he is descended from a chief, he inherits his predecessor's "crown."(33) In addition to wearing a botolo, Ekonda chiefs carry a wavy-edged scepter (fig. 25).
The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art, cat. 14, pp. 74-75.
32. Biebuyck, Daniel, and Nelly van den Abbeele. The Power of Headdresses: A Cross-cultural Study of Forms and Functions. Brussels: Tendl S.A., 1984. p. 96.
33. Brown, H. D. “The Nkumu of the Tumba: Ritual Chieftainship on the Middle Congo.” Africa 14, no. 8 (1944). pp. 431–47.
Brown describes chieftainship among the Tumba, who also have a chief (nkumu) who wears a similar hat called a montolo. Writing in the 1940s, Brown notes that the ceremonies connected with the nkumu were rapidly disappearing under the influence of European occupation and control.