Beads of Distinction: Yoruba Royal Caps from the Collection of Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson, PhD

July 14, 2021 - December 26, 2021

A multicolor beaded cap with three beaded birds on top

The Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria and adjacent regions have developed a rich and vibrant tradition of beadwork designs, especially after the introduction of glass beads through European trade from the late eighteenth century. The small, brilliantly colored beads were often used to decorate the regalia that denotes and celebrates the powers of the ruler (oba). This included headgear for non-ritual, minor occasions and daily wear, such as the five beaded caps in this installation, dating from the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The caps combine traditional Yoruba iconography with a style that often reflects European or other external influences. The shapes of the hats can evoke models from Europe (the bejeweled crown, the bishop’s mitre, the sailor’s cap), as well as the Muslim world of northern Africa (the fez and the turban). This is the fourth in the Ackland’s series of long-term installations with works from the distinguished collection of Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson PhD.

Image credit: Unknown artist, Yoruba cultures, Nigeria, Beaded Royal Cap, late nineteenth century, glass beads, textiles, and thread, 7 x 8 ½ in (17.8 x 21.6 cm) Collection of Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson, PhD, L2021.7.3