Tin cans snipped into flowers shapes and attached to long springy stems dance gracefully from the tip of a pill-box hat. Aqua blue plastic water bottles are transformed into hat brims and sidebands. Bones wired together create hat crowns and flip-flops sculpted into large marine animals adorn heads. Then, for spice, a sprinkling of feathers, shells, soap wrappers and coconut bark cloth garnish the weird and wonderful hat creations of the 2014 Shela Hat Contest.
Over 100 participants entered this year’s Shela Hat Contest, held on 8th of February on the Peponi Beach in front of Shela Village. The contestants wore hats ranging from cocky to whimsical and from haute couture Lamu style to those with graceful modern minimalist lines.
The crowd’s favourites were complicated hats like a 3-story architectural house model and a metre-long dolphin, seamlessly sculpted from recycled flip-flops collected on the beach. They also admired hats resembling miniature dhows, the traditional sailboats of the Swahili Coast, replete with sails and rigging. There were others depicting fanciful sea birds of woven raffia palm. Bedecked and splendid, the creators proudly strode the beach as onlookers admired the crazy menagerie of head gear. It was a day of sun, fun and admiration for the creative and wonderfully weird hats.
This year marked the third Shela Hat Contest, a biennial event that began in 2010. The contest is organized by the Lamu Painters Festival, a not for profit organization supporting art projects including the Shela Hat Contest, artist in residency programs and the Lamu Painters Festival, a biennial festival, next up in 2015.
Many thanks to Mohammed Sultan (Senior Chief), Hamid’Shuruti’Mohammed, Shiban, Ahmed Mwarabu, Nudin Abdulrehman, the members of the jury, Hadija Ernst, Mkamzee Mwatela, Jacob Kerssemakers, and the people of Shela.