Oromo/Gurage Headrest

Plenty of incised carving and use of cowrie shells and a few remaining glass beds decorate this Oromo Gurage Headrest.

Tribe: Oromo/Gurage

Origin: Ethiopia

Approx Age: Mid – later 20th Century

Materials: Wood/Glass beads/Cowrie shells

Dimensions cm: 16.5 (tall) x 16.5 (wide)

Ref. Number: 1254


Plenty of incised carving adorns this headrest from the Oromo/Gurage who come from Ethiopia. Created from a single piece of wood. It still has a few remaining decorations on both sides of the headrest consisting of strings of blue, white and red glass beads. A cowrie shell has been used to secure the beads at each end of each string. Remains on the top showing where there once was a pad or cushioning and tiny little holes where multiple beads were hanging similar to those few left remaining.


The headrest is an important piece of everyday art that is not only used as a place to rest ones head but can and is also used as a seat. Often headrests have the purpose not only to rest a head on but as a means of protection for some of the elaborate hair styles/coiffures  that many african tribes display. In many parts of central, western, and southern Africa, headrests were carved by their owners; while others were exquisitely crafted by professional carvers. These headrests often supported elaborate coiffures that were far too complex and time consuming to restyle on a daily basis. Hair was intricately braided or embellished with clay, beads, and other decorative materials. Small, wooden supports protected these styles during sleep, helping to preserve a hairstyle for weeks or even months at a time. Being of the size they are it make the headrest very portable and hence can be taken anywhere with ease.

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