The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality

December 5, 2020 through February 28, 2021

From headdresses and helmets to turbans and crowns, 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, showcasing skill and creativity in conveying meaning. In a profusion of shapes and styles, materials, and embellishments, these hats and headdresses communicate beauty, the diversity of the world’s cultures, and ideas shared throughout humanity.

Featuring headwear from forty-three countries spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America, most date from the mid to late 20th century and many types are still worn today for revelry, ritual, and the rhythms of everyday life. Headwear’s usage and purposes reveal shared themes: cultural identity; power, prestige, and status; ceremonies and celebrations; spiritual beliefs; and protection. White wedding veils of the West symbolize purity, for example, and Vietnamese brides’ open-crowned red turbans symbolize good fortune. Discover intriguing parallels that exist within ceremonial objects from diverse societies.

The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality was jointly organized and toured by Stacy W. Miller and International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

Exhibition Highlights

Tekke Wedding Headdress, Turkmenistan, early twentieth century, metal, beads, cotton, silk, © 2017, courtesy of Hat Horizons, photograph by Stacey Miller
Thunderbolt Crown, Tibet, early twentieth century, metal, © 2012, courtesy of Hat Horizons, photograph by Matthew Hillman
Kayapo/Mekranoti Headdress (Akkapa-ri), Brazil, mid-late twentieth century, feathers, cotton, reed, © 2012, courtesy of Hat Horizons, photograph by Matthew Hillman
Naga Helmet, India, mid-twentieth century, cane, dyed goat hair, boar tusks, © 2012, courtesy of Hat Horizons, photograph by Matthew Hillman

Thanks to the members, donors, grantors, and sponsors who support the exhibition and programs. Exhibitions and programs are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Marketing supported in part by City of Wausau Room Tax funds.

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