Oval base, pierced triangular-shaped supports with geometric decoration, the neck rest with diamond-shaped decoration, age related wear
Shona headrests consist of three parts â?? a base, usually lobed and raised, a support with deeply incised design features, and a top panel with small geometric incisions. These features are present in this headrest, the base consists of two circles raised, slanting inwards with small, triangular forms emerging in the centre on both sides; the support is narrow with central horizontal ovals between three sets of triangles below and three inverted above, enhanced with deeply carved linear designs; the two sides are the same with an alteration on the one side; the top is a shallow curved panel with small diamond designs in bands towards each end. .
The designs on Shona headrests have a number of possible references either to the ndoro (the spiral end of the conus shell) used as currency or worn as sign of status especially by chiefs and diviners, and also to the scarification nyoro on womenâ??s bodies suggesting that these headrests are gendered as female. Headrests were personal, functional items used by married men for sleeping on to protect their elaborate hairstyle as well as a means of communication with an ancestor.
Condition: Signs of usage, good patina and chisel marks consistent with early Shona carving are evident. Old chips along top edges, one side of the headrest is good and on the other some of the design is missing. This wear must have occurred a long ago as it has the same dark patina as the rest of the headrest.
Nettleton, Anitra. African Dream Machines. Style, Identity and Meaning in African Headrests Wits University Press, 2007.
Phillips, Tom, ed. Africa. The Art of a Continent. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1995-6, AN 204-205.
Sold, Christie's Paris, Art Africain, Oceanien et Precolombien,12 June 2003, lot 46, illustrated on p110
Rob Temple, Tribal Arts, Belgium
The Bruce Goodall Collection