More often than not, our holiday souvenirs take pride of place when we first return from our travels, only to be relegated to a shelf or cupboard soon afterwards. Not so with the juju hat, a magnificent feathered headdress from Cameroon, that can be fanned out and hung on a wall as a statement piece. An instant way to add a bit of exotic drama to a room – and the interiors accessory of the moment – they’re available in almost every size and colour, from neutral cream, white and beige shades to vivid multi-coloured creations.
Traditionally worn with the feathers pointing upwards by the Bamileke tribe, the hats symbolise prosperity and are often worn on top of the long elephant mask, which represents power. A base is made of woven grass, after which dyed, cured chicken or guinea fowl feathers are fixed on top of wooden slats above it. Selling from £200 to £700, look out for ones that are slightly irregular – experts say they’re more likely to be authentic.
“Juju hats aren’t always easy to track down, but it’s worth seeking out the real deal,” says Scott Dunn Africa and safari specialist Sarah Clegg. “Craft markets in South Africa often sell them, such as The Rosebank Craft Market and Art Africa in Johannesburg. There’s also a beautiful interiors shop, Tribal Trends, in Cape Town, and keep an eye out at both airports – the souvenir shops Out of Africa and African Origins sometimes stock them, and you’ll get one there for a really good price.” Don’t worry about taking them on the plane either. “They fold up into small basket shapes,” says Sarah, “so they can easily be taken home with you as hand luggage.”
If you don’t have any plans to travel to Africa any time soon, you can buy one like these splendid examples online, from interiors sites like rockettstgeorge.co.uk. “Each hat can take up to two weeks to make, but we always have a waiting list for them”, says the company’s co-founder Jane Rockett. “They’re so sought-after because each one is handmade, beautiful and unique, with a real story behind it – they’re definitely a talking point.”