Turkana

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Turkana Headrest, Ethiopia

This Turkana Headrest is from the Turkana tribe and is typical for a headrest/stool belonging to a man who shepherd cattle. It is made in a form so that it is hard to keep balance and therefore preventing him from falling into a deep sleep. It is made from one piece of wood and it has a beautiful patina from age and much use.

The Turkana headrests are ranged from the simple to elaborately carved artifacts. They have abstract shapes and nice lines. Their styles are similar to these found among the other nomadic people of Uganda and Kenya, particularly among the Pokot Maasai, Karamajong, Rendille, and Turkana.

Among these people headrests and stools play a vital role among men. These objects are carefully carved and carried by men everywhere they go. As a personal object, the headrest has become symbols of status and part of the individual life. Usually, when the person died, he is buried with his headrest. Sometimes the headrest is passed on to his heir, who would treat it with respect because this wooden piece embodies the spirit of the deceased person.

Provenance: Collected in the 1970s in situ by German anthropologist and private collector Dorothee von Brentano.

Literature:
Dewey William, J., “Sleeping Beauties – The Jerome Joss Collection of Headrests at UCLA”
Gunter Best, Marakwet & Turkana. New Perspectives on the Material Culture of East African Societies, Museum fur Volkerkunde, Frankfurt, 1993.

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