The piece was bought from Augusta Auctions, in Vermont by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli in 2023 to enhance the collection of The Zay Initiative.
This is a men’s skull cap (Topi) Crocheted in ivory cotton and golden metallic thread. It is a skull cap usually worn by the Muslim men of the Bohra community of the Indian subcontinent.
The field of the Topi has very precise geometric patterns with the crown featuring a large flower in a kaleidoscopic format. The side rim is divided in almost two equal parts, the top of which is plain white with an arrangement of diamond-shaped patterns repeated in an alternate placement.
The bottom half of the rim is Crocheted with a combination of ivory cotton as well as golden metallic threads. This half features a repeat of a spade motif in two different sizes alternately arranged with an arrow-like shape.
Although the Bohra Muslim community – a branch of Shia Islam with origins dating back to the Fatimid Caliphate – of the Indian subcontinent was initiated and introduced by a Yemeni and had far-reaching influences in the neighbouring Arab world like East Africa, it is not clear whether similar costumes and couture culture exists homogeneously within the entire community. Thus, its striking resemblance to the traditional men’s skull cap (Kummah) worn in Oman and East African countries like Zanzibar as well as the city of Gwadar and its neighbouring areas in the southwestern region of Balochistan, Pakistan as it was part of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman until 1958 is not surprising. This specific style of cap, however, could be instantly identified as a Bohra Muslim men’s cap from the Indian subcontinent, however, its uniqueness to the region is debatable.