Everything You Need to Know About a Juju Hat
Juju hats are the intriguing new trend sweeping the home decor scene as of late, especially since 2022. Textured and natural fabrics are fast becoming the style language for interior designers and savvy decorators. Inspiration for using such designs has come from various exotic locations, and juju hats are the latest heritage item from Africa to become popular in the decor space.
What are Juju Hats?
Juju Hats are out-of-the-box decors that replace boring paintings and family photos. They find their origins in the rich ethnic history of Cameroon, Africa, and are a striking sight anywhere you see them. These thick, plumed hats scream opulence, exactly what they symbolize in their country of origin. With their unique and stylish look, they are fast becoming favored as eclectic wall hangings.
These handcrafted beauties are vibrant, colorful, and one-of-a-kind. They’re becoming used as a surprisingly effective way to improve the look and feel of any room in the house. They take the place of a conventional painting or photograph on the wall. These circular contraptions look rustic and exciting, a perfect conversation starter.
Origins and History
Juju hats hold great importance to the Bamileke tribes of Cameroon, and it is among these people that they came into existence. The Bamileke people are one of the largest ethnic groups of Cameroon and first came to the region in the 11th century. Since then, to the 21st century, they have survived multiple colonization attempts from different European civilizations, including the Germans, French, and British people.
While these historical periods have left their mark on the Bamileke people, they have maintained much of their prestige through elaborate customs. Juju hats, which hold such central importance in the Bamileke culture, symbolize their rich culture and the resilience that led them to their present-day freedom with their identity intact.
Today, they remain a symbol of cultural pride among the Bamileke and are still used in important tribal ceremonies. In Cameroon, juju hats are a prestigious symbol worn only by tribal chiefs and distinguished war leaders during royal ceremonies and celebrations. When an elder of a distinguished family passes away, their juju hat is passed down to the next in line, signifying the inheritance of wealth by the heir.
In their original context, Juju hats symbolize wealth, royalty, and luxury. As they become prominent in diverse homes worldwide, it allows everyone to partake in a tiny bit of the prestige these feathered crowns offered to the royalty of Cameroon.
Juju became a popular catch-all among European men after the 17th century to refer to any esoteric cultural item or element from West Africa. It was particularly used in the context of African healers and religions. A similar association has prevailed in the feathered hats that the Bamileke people call Tyn.
Significance in Cameroonian Culture
The Bamileke people have been weaving the Tyn crowns for centuries for exclusive use by tribal chiefs, dignitaries, and distinguished warriors. They are worn exclusively by royal and warrior families as a status symbol.
Bamileke communities are always headed by a chief or king, who maintains a committee of eight men known as the “Mkem”. It stands for “the assembly of those who hold hereditary rights”. This committee acts as something of a ministers’ cabinet for the king.
Every member of the Mkem is known to have given considerable service to their tribe by bringing wealth or other benefits to the community. As such, each is tasked with overseeing specific aspects of the community — much the same as a secretary or minister does. These duties can concern economic, military, or other sectors of the tribal community.
Once every two years, the Mkem host grand gatherings in which the king's wealth is flaunted amidst the tribe. In these ceremonies, the Mkem and their families put on the Tyn hats for special public ceremonies.
The hats are rarely worn as a single item and typically accompany special masks denoting the wearer’s social caste. The most distinguished among them is the elephant and leopard masks worn by the king and the members of the warrior societies, the Kuosi and the Kemdje. Aside from that, these hats are also worn along with a special full-body costume known as Mbap Mteng.
Construction of Juju Hats
Weaving a juju hat is no small task, and it takes even skilled artists 2 to 3 days to complete a single hat. Authentic juju hats invariably come from parts of rural Cameroon, where master Tyn weavers tend to reside. These artisans have been making these hats for years and are intimately familiar with all the little considerations of making a fantastic Tyn hat.
Tyns are made from the fibers of the raffia palm, which are found abundantly in Cameroon. Artisans work on them during the dry months of the year, ensuring that the raffia and feathers get ample time to dry.
Firstly, the artisans delicately weave the raffia to create a strong and durable backing for the large feather structure. The woven raffia discs are lined with cedar wood to create a circular base on which the feathers are finally fitted.
Chicken feather is commonly used for the voluminous structure that becomes the most attractive point of the juju hat. In its absence, weavers choose from the feathers of a few other easily available avians whose feathers are well-suited for the task.
The feathers are cured and dyed with the desired color beforehand and then finally attached to the wooden base to form the gorgeous juju hats that are popular worldwide today. They are handcrafted with such delicate care, and no two juju hats are quite the same, differing in color, design, and size.
The juju hat also has a surprisingly practical design. Every juju hat is built in a way it folds in on itself, making it very easy to store and transport. In its folded structure, the Tyn reduces in size and volume and also protects the feathers with a tough raffia lining that sits on the outside. A simple leather strap attached to the hat can be pulled to unfold the hat for use.
Juju Hats as Decor Pieces
As you bring a juju hat into your home as a decorative piece, you must recognize it as a work of art. Of how amazingly versatile juju hats are, it is important to recognize their cultural significance. And in doing that, you should also reflect it in your usage.
Be mindful that you respectfully use juju hats. Avoid placing them in places like the bathroom or on the floor. The best and most effective way to use a juju hat is as a wall hanging.
Juju hats are surprisingly easy to work with as they quickly add a bit of three-dimensional texture to any wall and can become an exotic focal point of the room. With many colors, jujus can conjure up a rustic, exotic feel or a relaxed, chic one depending on your choice of hue.
The greatest advantage of bringing a juju hat into your decor set is that it does so much to bring your styling together and rarely feels over the top. They blend seamlessly with various aesthetics, from your modern industrial loft to your rustic cottage.
You can create a sense of volume and bring balance into a room’s decor or place it above a couch or the fireplace to make it a focal piece. Another great option is to set up a vibrant collage using juju hats of different sizes on a single wall.
As an alternative to the commonly seen artworks and large portraits commonly placed as wall decorations, juju hats are versatile and easy to get right. Choosing judiciously between its many lush shades, you can find a perfect combination to enhance the decor aesthetic you have chosen for your home.
Shop Juju Hats for Your Home
When it comes to purchasing a work of art with such a strong history to it, ensuring that you find the authentic item is of paramount importance. Because the art of juju hats extends beyond the items themselves, it encompasses the entire way of life and the indigenous skills that are kept alive as a means of that artwork.
You must support the artisans making these artworks for untold generations. At One Affirmation, we aim to bring authentic products to our customers and support the artisans who keep the tradition alive. You can check out our collection of African Juju Hats starting at $179.
Care Instructions for your Juju Hat
Since they are made of genuine bird feathers, juju hats are naturally dust-repellant and resilient to dirt accumulation. They are, however, prone to attract moths. So, placing a small quantity of cedar or lavender near the back of your juju is recommended to repel bugs. You can also keep a moth spray handy and occasionally spray over the hat as routine maintenance.
While the hats are mostly dust-resistant, you should also dust them occasionally. It will keep your juju hat clean for long and ensure it remains fluffy and appealing. The simplest and best way to dust your juju hat is to use a blow dryer in a cold setting.
Juju hats, or Tyn as they are natively called, are one of the most eclectic yet versatile design trends recently. Given how naturally it blends in with different aesthetic styles, purchasing one for your home can be attractive.