The fishing village of Shela, about 4 KM south-east of Lamu Town, can get really hot – in fact it is hot throughout the year. One travel guide describes Shela as ‘the perfect place for daydreaming’.

But for the construction workers of Shela, there is no time to daydream – they have to labour in this scorching heat all day to earn a livelihood. Over the years, they have developed ingenious ways of shielding themselves from the solar rays by crafting weird-looking hats from all sorts of odd used material.

You could spot a hat made from old fabric, used cement bags, shells, palm leaves, wires and sometimes even strange ones made out of coral or bones – all in the name of keeping the effects of mother nature’s fireball at bay.

Interestingly, this has now developed into a fashion culture that is beginning to give some people ideas.  It is no wonder in 2010, inspired by this curious headgears, the first ever Hat Contest to celebrate the diversity of creativity in hat making at Shela, was held.

The contest, now in its 3rd edition, involves participants conjuring up their best hat-making tricks yet to outperform each other in a heavily contested event. This year’s event, which was held at the Peponi Beach in February 8th, saw 30 contestants receive varied cash prizes. The winner, Mascha, with his bonehat, walked away with KES 40,000.

Josephine settled for second position and a cash prize of KES 30,000 with her stylish flower hat. For KES 20,000, Ali, with his dolphin hat, was content with third position. A total of 89 hats were pre-selected to take part in the competition.

The event was sponsored by Herbert Menzer who also sponsors the Lamu Painters Festival.  Have you attended any of the Shela Hats Contests? What was your experience? Share by commenting below.