Old headrest, Banio/Me’en, Omo Valley, Ethiopia, heavy wood, indigenous aluminium repair, leather plaited handle
Headrests from East Africa
Among the Turkana of northern Kenya, or the Karamajong of southern Uganda, the headrest (or neckrest) is an accessory that a man never separates from. It is used to preserve his hair during nap or sleep. It has two feet with a leather lace between them, or it has only one foot and is then decorated with a leather or metal handle. The neckrests can be decorated with animal or geometric burned patterns. A man may travel several hundred kilometres to obtain a headrest from a renowned craftsman.
In Somalia, among the Afar, Boni and Somali, and in Ethiopia, among the Sidamo, Kambatta, Kaffa and Guragé, headrests are used by both women and men. Some are decorated with intricate geometric patterns, probably influenced by Islamic designs.
The headrests of the Horn of Africa have a surprisingly wide range of shapes. They are therefore wonderful collectors’ items. The use and the fat used for their maintenance often give them beautiful shiny patinas