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A Somali wooden headrest (Barkin)

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A Somali wooden headrest (Barkin)
This is a fine example of the formal and graceful headrests from the Horn area of Africa. It exhibits the classic guilloche pattern on its sides and base, reflecting an Islamic influence. The curvilinear form is intentionally unstable since they are frequently used by herdsman while at rest, standing on one leg. They are, not surprisingly, a symbol of vigilance among the Somali and neighboring Boni, Hawiya, and Digil groups. There is an incised design on the top of this headrest which is vaguely zoomorphic in form. Typically, snakes and scorpions are drawn on the top of the 'pillow', and the combination of these images of dangerous creatures along with the continuous intertwined pattern up the sides has been interpreted as a "form of shorthand for a prayer" to insure God's protection for the owner while they sleep. Made from a tight-grained, lightweight wood with traces of reddish pigment overall. Fine, honey-brown, aged patina. 7"H x 6.25"W, in very fine condition with obvious signs of use. Early 20th century, from Somalia or Kenya, East Africa. Provenance: Fedel Collection, since the 1970's.

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