Item: Gurage/Oromia Kaffir Head Rest, Specifications: 17 x 16.5 x diameter of base 12 cm, Origin: Ethiopia (see ethnographic notes below) Medium: Timber Carving
Provenance: Rudner Collection, collected by Arthur Rudner prior to 1954, Private Collection, Cape Town since 1999, Private Collection Melbourne since 2002. Condition: One old shrinkage crack approx. 2 cm to base and an old chip about 5mm also to base.
Context: 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.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation of Africa, and is home to a myriad of peoples with over 80 different spoken languages. The Kambatta reside west of the Gurage, along the banks of the upper Omo River. Ethiopian men generally use these headrest for sleeping and to keep their elaborate coiffures off the ground.