X86.2410 Headrest

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Democratic Republic of the Congo
Holo, Songo, Shinji peoples
Wood, nail, brass, upholstery tacks
25 x 14 x 8 cm (9.8 x 5.5 x 3.1 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X86.2410


The Chokwe, Yaka and Holo all make headrests with animal caryatids. The animal in this object with its ears broken off is perhaps a leopard, a common symbol of authority. Yaka- and Chokwe-related people associate headrests with male dignitaries so it is probably appropriate to think the Holo may also. Bourgeois reports that the Yaka and Suku use the headrests at night to protect the elaborate headpieces of coiffures of chiefs, which function as communal charms. Neyt notes that the Holo have coiffures inspired by the Suku so perhaps their headrests are also used to protect powerful communal coiffure charms.

Source: Dewey, William J. (1993): “Sleeping Beauties: The Jerome L. Joss Collection of African Headrests at UCLA”‚ Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 59