Double Headrest, 19th century
A South African headrest made for two people, which is likely to have been made either by the Zulu or Nguni people. Headrests were designed to preserve elaborate hairstyles, which often signified an individual’s identity. They maintained a person’s head in line with their shoulders while sleeping or resting. Yet a headrest function went beyond utility. Associated with sleep and dreams, the headrest was believed to be a vehicle of communication with the ancestral realm. Headrests and other personal articles were frequently buried with their owners, evidencing the intimate connection between the object and its owner.