Headrest, Nuer Nyangatom, Kenya/Ethiopia
Headrests (or neckrests) are used by many nomadic people in Eastern Africa while resting or sleeping. It is popularly believed that the headrest serves a protective function by elevating the head off the ground (and sleeping mat) during sleep, thereby preventing any possible attack by snakes or insects. Both head- and neckrests help to preserve the expensive and elaborate hairstyles that serve as important symbols of high status in many African cultures. The height, size, and stability of the neck- or headrest are carefully and personally designed for the individual owner for maximum comfort and are personal items and status symbols. Durability is also an important feature, as the owners will frequently bring the neck- or headrest on their travels.
Additionally, neck- and headrests also hold spiritual symbolism, as they are believed to link the owner to the ground, and in some societies they are believed to function as ‘antennae’ to the ancestors, serving as a channel by which ancestors transferred dreams to the owner.Request price for Headrest