The Salako is THE traditional hat of the Saintes archipelago; a splendid group of islands in Guadeloupe.
It was often worn by the Saintois fisherman aboard their traditional fishing boats called ‘Saintoises’ !
Of a highly particular shape, it is very different to the hats worn in numerous other islands of Guadeloupe, in fact it has a slightly… Asian look to it !
The Salako first appeared in the Saints in the 19th Century. Two theories co-exist concerning its origins:
– It was introduced by the French Naval officers who came from Asia. What is certain is that the French Naval infantry officers based in Tonkin in 1873 wore the ‘Salacco’ hat of which the shape is similar to that of the ‘Salako’ of the Saints.
– The other theory is that the Annamites of Cochin China, condemned for a rebellion, were sent to Guadeloupe, then the Saints, where they served their punishment for five years. Some of them then settled in the Saints, maybe introducing this hat at that time.
The Salako is still hand made by craftsmen on the Terre-de-Bas island in the Saints by the few remaining craftsmen who retain the skills necessary for its manufacture.
The major material used is bamboo. After being cut into fine strips, these are cut to a point and implanted into a light piece of wood for braiding. The crown of the head is worked in a way similar to that of the fish traps used by the island fishermen. To increase protection from the sun this is often covered by the fishermen with material (nowadays generally Madras).
So, wait no longer, come and visit the Saints archipelago on your next visit to Piton Bungalows !