Luba Caryatid Headrest

  • Tribe: Luba
  • Origin: DRC
  • Approx Age: 19th century
  • Materials: Wood
  • Dimensions cm: 16 x 20
  • Ref. Number: 1217

Truly stunning Luba Caryatid Headrest. This headrest comes from the Luba people of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Carved from a single piece of wood this wonderful depiction of two caryatids is incorporated within this Luba headrest. Beautifully carved, showing intricate detail throughout the whole ¬†headrest. Each seated figure showing two very different styles of coiffure. The headrests made by ¬† master of the cascade coiffure are usually ornamented with a caryatid, but in this work there are two seated figures facing each other and holding each other with their arms and legs. Probably the figure with the cascade coiffure and scarification’s is a man and the other a woman.

Provenance; Ex Old UK Private Collection

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Luba Hairstyle: Photograph taken from Trip Down Memory Lane


Among the Luba people the headrest serves as a cool, hard but not uncomfortable pillow. They are also used to protect the most elaborate hairstyles/coiffure of women and men while they sleep. Headrests were and are regarded as the seat of dreams as for the Luba, dreams are prophecies that foretell important events, express warnings and transmit messages from the supernatural world.

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Luba tribes women


Wooden headrest, or neck rests as they are also known as are used in many parts of Africa. Usually consisting of three main parts, despite local differences in shape and ornamentation, a base, pedestal (of varying length/design), and a long headpiece that curves slightly upwards at either end.

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Luba Coiffure


Among the Luba the stlye of hairstyle/coiffure depicted in this headrest is called mikanda ‘ cascade ‘ or steps and it was especially fashionable among women in the villages of Kabondo Dianda and Busangu in the Luba-Shankadi region at the 19th and 20th centuries. Almost 50 hours of work would be required to create, on a wicker framework, such a magnificent hairstyle/coiffure. It would be possible to wear a style of this complexity for up to three months hence making a headrest a very important piece of tribal artwork.

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Luba people


Over thirty different hairstyles for both men and women have been documented. Indicating rank, status,occupation, membership of secret society, or martial status, either being betrothed or widowed the hairstyle/coiffure speaks. ” An elegant hairstyle makes a women radiant” Not only are the amazing hairstyles/coiffures important but equally so body scarification play an important part with in the Luba. Among the women scarification can be considered as erotic, both from a visual and tactile point of view, making a woman very desirable as a wife. A person would be considered as perfect if displaying such bodily ornamentation. It would be considered as a visible expression of a person’s self-confidence and social value.

So detailed is this Luba headrest that not only do the carved figures show elaborate hairstyles/coiffures, a sign of a very skilled carver, the intricate scarification that adorn the Luba peolpe have been included in this very highly stylized headrest.