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Artwork Details

6 ⅞ in x 6 ¼ in x 3 ⅛ in (17.5 cm x 15.9 cm x 8 cm)
Gift and partial purchase from the estate of Kurt Delbanco in honor of Nicholas Delbanco


Subject Matter:

Headrests are found in many communities throughout Africa, though most commonly in Central, East, and Southern Africa. Headrests support their owners’ heads during sleep, protecting elaborate coiffures from potential damage. They also can be used as temporary seats, much like a portable stool.
Intimately used for sleeping, headrests are closely associated with the owners. The elaboration of a headrest attests to the wealth and prestige of its owner. In addition to its utilitarian and ornamental functions, headrests also hold symbolic value for many African peoples. The head is often associated with an individual’s prowess and fortune, and sleep is often associated with spirit worlds. By supporting the head during sleep, the headrest is a tool for its owner to glean divinatory power from dreams.

Physical Description:

With flaring support, and carved guilloche and other design.
Headrests are small furnishings, typically sculpted from wood. They frequently have a concave platform supported by legs, though the platform can also be flat and/or be supported by a central post that may be connected to a broad base. The platform may be cushioned to provide comfort for the owner’s head, and many headrests feature complex ornamentation and sculptural details. Headrests share some of the same motifs and associations with stools, as they are constructed similarly and used for similar purposes.

Usage Rights:

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