In Africa, as elsewhere, different kinds of clothing and headwear have particular meanings. Hats can illustrate an individual's job or ethnic background or their standing in society. Farmers and blacksmiths wear particular hats in recognition of their skills and to show the particular jobs they do. Members of the royal family wear head-dresses to indicate their status.
Hats are sometimes used in ceremonies. Some people believe that the head represents a person's intelligence, abilities and power. Therefore, what is worn on the head has special meaning. A hat's material, whether cloth, wood or feathers, is significant. Glass beads show that the wearer is wealthy and is an important person, because the beads come from abroad and are valued as imported trade items. In addition, particular colours of beads and the designs can have specific meanings. Zigzag, lozenge, triangle and circle designs are common patterns used in decorating clothes.
Animals are recognised for their special strengths and skills. Headwear sometimes uses animal skins or feathers, as a symbol of the animal's qualities. For example, the leopard symbolises great strength, cunning and ferocity. A headdress or clothing made from leopard gives its wearer considerable authority and status. The former President of Zaire, Mobuto Sese Seko, wore a leopard skin cap, which showed his position as chief of the nation.
The Pende head-dress evokes the African buffalo - a huge animal with long inward-curving horns. Buffalo are agile and swift - they can slip in and out of woodland, and reach speeds of up to 50km an hour on open ground. When cornered, the buffalo fights fearlessly against adversaries, whether human or other animals. They pose a formidable challenge to hunters, and their abilities are renowned. Thus the buffalo horns on the chief's hat are a symbol of strength and courage.
The Pende people are mainly farmers who produce maize, millet, plantain and peanuts. The women do the majority of the farm work and sell the goods in the local markets. The men help with clearing the fields and they hunt and fish for food too. The Pende do not have local rulers. The chiefs provide leadership in traditional ceremonies and events but don't exercise any significant power. Chiefs are the heads of families, and are known as 'Djigo.' They officiate at initiation rites, when boys are accepted into adulthood. As well as wearing the bicorn head-dress, the chief enhances his status through ownership of carved stools, staffs, chairs and swords. The Pende are skilled carvers and make all the items used by the chief, as well as sculpting figures and making masks - many for use in initiation rites.