Collecting hats came next. In northern Laos where we were trekking from one Akha tribal village to another, we were impressed with the unusual ceremonial hats worn by the women who greeted us. "I want one of those," I said to Bruce, after my eyes locked on a beautiful beaded hat decorated with heavy silver coins.
|MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE AKHA CEREMONIAL HAT|
|HER LIPS AND TEETH ARE STAINED RED FROM CHEWING BETEL NUT|
When we asked our local guide what it would take to acquire one, he shook his head and said, "These hats aren't for sale." We didn't want to believe him, but unfortunately, he was right. The Akha hats weren't for sale. At least not the ceremonial ones I coveted because they were family heirlooms and handed down from generation to generation. "You might find some beaded hats when we visit the market tomorrow," he told us. We had already seen the hats in the market, but they were like an embroidered beanie and not a heavy royal crown. A few weeks after we returned from Laos, we saw a similar Akha hat for sale at the San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts Show, so we bought it. I like to think we were meant to have that hat.
|FINDING THIS HAT AT THE TRIBAL SHOW MADE ME VERY HAPPY|
While hiking in the Simien Mountains of Northern Ethiopia, we bought two hats right off the heads of a couple of young shepherds who were tending their goats. We didn't particularly love the hats, but the kids wanted to trade something with us, and since we didn't have anything to trade, we took out a few birr and bought their woolen hats. The problem was these hats smelled so terrible that we had to keep them separated from our travel clothes for the rest of our trip. Honestly, I'm not quite sure how we managed it, except that after the Simien Mountains, we traveled to the remote tribal region of South Omo where everything smelled like goats, so I guess we got used to it. (N.B. I don't think we really got used to it because when we returned home, I had to air the hats outside for a couple of months before I could display them. I swear when I walk by the shelf, I still smell goat!)
|SHEPHERDS HAT FROM ETHIOPIA|
In Tanzania we bought a beaded crown worn by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, a country we weren't planning to go to. In Arusha, Tanzania, there is this incredible place called the Cultural Heritage Center, which definitely deserves to be called the motherlode of tribal art. There are three, maybe four buildings with two levels each chock full of fabulous "stuff," like masks, wooden and stone carvings, jewelry, shields, fetishes, statues, pottery, wooden alters, doors, and windows, swords, paintings, weavings, and other handicrafts. This is the place where I can honestly say my husband lost his mind.
|AURUSHA CULTURAL CENTER|
|THE MOTHERLODE OF TRIBAL ART|
|YORUBA BEADED CROWN FROM NIGERIA|
There were a lot of different hats for sale in the Masai village we visited in Tanzania, but this one was small enough to transport home, and that is always a factor to consider.
|MASAI HAT, TANZANIA|
The hat below is from Turkmenistan, but we bought it in an antique store in Bangkok on our way to Bhutan. The shop owner was also willing to sell us the wrought iron display stand and even shorten it a little to meet our shelf dimension at home. The only problem was that there wasn't enough time for him to do the work before we left for Bhutan early the next morning. For a few extra dollars, the man agreed to alter the stand and then, along with the hat, send a well wrapped package by taxi across the city to the airport hotel, where we would staying two weeks later when we transferred through Bangkok on our way home.
|A HAT FROM TURKMENISTAN|
We saw this crazy hat when we were in Borneo, Malaysia. Someone told us it was a chief's hat, but we never saw any chiefs so that label can't be authenticated. We bought it anyway. It was too fun to pass up.
|CHIEFS HAT FROM BORNEO|
This decorative child's birthday hat jumped out at us while we were walking through a market in a Dong village in Guizhou Province, China. Although the owner of the shop didn't speak any English, he was willing to pose for the photo. Both Bruce and I thought he looked like Genghis Khan.
|GENGHIS AND PAMELA KHAN|
We have a few smaller hats that we acquired in Egypt, Bhutan, Laos, and Oman. Surprisingly, finding an Omani kumar that was hand-stitched rather than stitched by machine was a challenge.
|THESE OMANI MEN ARE WEARING THE TRADITIONAL KUMAR|
In Burma, I told Bruce, "No more hats. "We have too many already." Mild-mannered Bruce didn't disagree, but he didn't agree either. Then we saw this!
|NAGA TRIBAL HAT|
With a grin on his face, he looked at me and said, "I think we can get it for $60. " What could I say? How could I refuse? "Where will we put it? " I asked. He just shrugged his shoulders. "This is our last hat," I insisted, but now we are planning a trip to West Africa for 2015, and I bet we come home with a hat.