Pokot headrest, Kenya and Uganda
wood, animal hide, beads, metal
7.5" tall x 4 3/4" wide x 2 1/2" deep
mid 20th century
ex Dr. Evan Maure
r, former Director Minneapolis Institute of


A well used and unusually nicely adorned example of these
wonderful headrests. This example stands out from a majority of
others because of the inlaid metal on one leg and incised
designs on the other. The beadwork is intact.
For additional detail click on any thumbnail to see the high resolution version of the image.
"Among the Pokot there is evidence that the different styles of headrests (of which this style is only one of several)
relate to different age and status of their owners.

The basis of social and political organization is an age-set system which forms the Pokot into a rigidly controlled
hierarchical society. Ritual, judicial and political authority rests with the oldest men. Initiation into this system is by
the ceremony of
sapana at which the initiate spears an ox, ceremonially adopts the blue mudpack hairstyle, and is
given a headrest (Brown in Bockhoff and Fleming 1986:28).

There is some confusion in the literature (Beech 1911:pl. VI; Bockhoff and Fleming 1986:36, 40) whether this type
of headrest should be called a
ngachar or a chamaperit among the Pokot. From the latter source there is also the
implication given that the simpler unadorned variety is for use by uninititated Pokot boys, while an embellished
and beaded example, such as the one above, is reserved for "a young male initiate after his
sapana ceremony"
(Ibid, 36).

It should also be reiterated that while we as Westerners may admire equally the simplicity of form in each of these
examples, the Pokot would differentiate between them by their own aesthetic standards. The unadorned variety
would be characterized by the word
karam meaning 'good' or 'useful' while the other would be called pachigh
meaning 'pleasant to look at' or 'unusual' (Schneider 1956:106)."

From - William J. Dewey - Sleeping Beauties: The Jerome L Joss Collection of African Headrests at UCLA