Summer equals festival season – but what should you wear if you don’t want to be caught dead in a ‘bøllehat’?

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Summer is finally upon us! And as the days become longer and warmer it becomes important to take precautions when stepping outside in the harsh scorching sunlight. For years Danish authorities have been trying to get Danes to take care and seek shelter from the sun by for example donning sun hats while we go about our summer holidays both in and outside the country. This week, many young Danes are gathered at the biggest Danish music festival in Roskilde and a large amount of heads are most likely adorned by the not-so-stylish-but-confusingly-popular ‘bøllehat’ or ‘jungle hat’. But what are some other stylish hat-alternatives? What could possibly be cooler than a ‘bøllehat’?

I have taken a deep dive into the waters of the Ethnographic Collections to find just the right kind of equipment for dealing with the weather this summer. And who could teach us more about stylishly dealing with the sun than the Wodaabe nomads of West Africa!

The Wodaabe are a subgroup of the Fulani people and many of them have traditionally been cattle and goat herders as well as traders, who have migrated over long distances between Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad through both West and Central Africa. Anthroplogist Mette Bovin collected a large quantity of objects over a period of 25 years of fieldwork among the Wodaabe between 1968 and 2011. Her collections are among some of Moesgaard Museum’s biggest and provide touching glimpses into the lives of a nomadic people in Africa.


Should you find yourself at a Wodaabe festival during the summer, you might be able to fashion yourself with one of these amazing Fulani style hats. However, you would have to be a man and in some places you would also have to be older than 45 years to be able to adorn your head with one of these wonderful sun shielding hats.

The pyramid shaped hats are made from braided plant fibres and typically topped by a leather knob. They are decorated with dyed leather strips and patches, colourful tassels of wool, ostrich feathers, and in some cases, as with the second hat presented here, the hats are decorated with colourful fabric, plastic tassels and geometric plastic shapes are even riveted onto the sides of the hat. While the hat might initially be made by another person, its current owner continuously decorates and changes his hat to add to its impressive looks.

The hats are usually worn atop a turban and accompanied by more leather tassels, jewellery made with colourful beads and dyed wool that all go perfectly together with the colourful festival garments known as buuari worn by both younger and older men at special occasions.

Hats for older men are called malafaare ndottiidjo while younger men wear malafaare kayeedjo

The hats collected by anthropologist Mette Bovin were primarily collected in Niamey, Niger’s capital city, where the Wodaabe, who unfortunately lost their animals, had to move in order to sell their wares, hence why the hats and other artefacts have become popular souvenirs for tourists especially. Typically, the hats were meant to show off their wearer’s status and attract women during dancing festivals and shield their wearer’s heads from the sun during migration through the bush. But now they have also found their way into homes all over the world, decorating their walls and reminding owners of their travels.

Mette Bovin collected many hats from the Wodaabe in Niger, all wonderful and unique in their shape and decoration, but they all served the same purposes – keeping men’s heads safe from the sun while telling everyone else of their status and great taste in headwear.

Perhaps Danish festival garb could use an overhaul! However, should you be terribly sad to bid your precious ‘bøllehat’ adieu, there might also be a Wodaabe alternative for you…

//Katrine Mandrup Bach

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