Luba People, Kinkondja, DR Congo
Wooden headrests, which preserve elaborate hair styles and keep the head comfortable in sleep, were popular among high-ranking Luba people of earlier generations. Headrests were sometimes considered conduits for messages from the ancestors, conveyed through the prophecy of dreams. In this headrest, two caryatids face each other, one with the elaborate Shankadi hair style, the other with a Hemba style coiffure. The Shankadi hair style popular in the royal Luba Heartland is called the “step coiffure,” created through hours of meticulous work. Hair styling is important to the Luba people, and women continue to wear dramatic and labor-intensive hairdos. The coiffures can identify one’s marital status or indicate one’s cultural role; however, the primary purpose of hair styling is to beautify the wearer. As a Luba woman named Ngoi Ilunga has said, “An elegant hair style makes a woman radiant.” Like scarification, beautiful hair style is a sign of civilization and of a person’s status and self-esteem.
Dimensions: 8 X 7 X 2.5 inches