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unknown Shona


Early 20th century
Carved wood

5 1/4 in. x 7 in. x 3 in. (13.34 cm x 17.78 cm x 7.62 cm)
Gift of Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.5.51
Other Number(s): 82-11 (Neufeld Collection Number)
Geography: Africa, Zimbabwe
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts
Culture/Nationality: Shona, Zimbabwean, Southern African, African
Collection: Neufeld Collection
Some sacred objects are for ceremonial purposes only while others, like this headrest from Zimbabwe, can be used as part of everyday life. It is carved in the geometric style primarily associated with the Tsonga and the Chopi of southern Africa. Headrests were used for elevating the head during sleep and were said to absorb a portion of the owner as they absorbed body oils from the sleeper. At the same time it brought the owner messages from the ancestors. Although the personal nature of the headrest meant that it was often buried with the owner, on occasion it was passed on to relatives to remain a connection to the ancestral realm.

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Headrest |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=7/23/2021 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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