Chapo a ki vwayaje

One of the paper pieces I made during the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince was a woven paper hat made under the supervision of Haitian tailor, Jonas Labase. Basket-weaving, originally a skill of the Carib population, was later, with the arrival of Europeans, given the name of the plant used in its fabrication (bakoua in the case of Martinique). Traditionally there were four models of hat produced: a hat for occasions/the town (woven in finer material); a hat for use in the fields – with a flat skullcap and medium brim; a hat for women – with a large brim (50-60cm); and a fisherman’s hat – lacquered to protect against sea spray, with a distinctive high cone-like skull cap. The design of the fisherman’s hat not only ensured protection from the sun, but also allowed stashes of cigarettes, money and identity papers to remain hidden and dry during trips out at sea. ( I only know all this cos I read an interview with Martiniquan tresseuse Mme Fidol in France Antilles magazine, 12th-18th June 1993).

Made out of a cardboard base and woven paper braids teased and coiled around the form, the hat was passed on from wearer to wearer and became integrated into the Grand Rue space, encouraging carnivalesque antics on its travels.

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