Karamojong headrest, Uganda
A wonderful almost elegant headrest from the Karamojong people of Uganda in Eastern Africa.
Headrests are used by many nomadic people of Eastern Africa while resting or sleeping. It is popularly believed that the headrest serves a protective function by elevating the head off the ground during sleep, thereby preventing any possible attack by snakes or scorpions.
On occasions headrests are used as a stool and as a personal object; the headrest has become part of the individual prestige. Usually, when a 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. In such a situation, it is not uncommon to break off a piece of the headrest or break it in half, so others cannot use it.
Condition: Despite age and extensive use this headrest is in an unusually good condition. Underscoring the previous owners care and pride. However, it seems obvious that this headrest has been broken in half and then carefully glued back together.
Age: Est. beg. 20th Century.
Measure: H: 16, W: 20, D: 7 cm.
Provenance: Collected in situ by artist Christian Silvain, Belgium in 1960.
Literature: “Sleeping Beauties”: The Jerome L. Joss Collection of African Headrests at UCLA First Edition Edition by William J. Dewey (Author), Toshiko M. McCallum (Author), Jerome Feldman (Author), Henrietta Cosentino (Author)Africa in Repose: Stools and Headrests Author(s): Margaret Rose Vendryes.
Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, Vol. 58, No. 1/2 (1999), pp. 3853 Published by: Princeton University Art Museum.