The seated and embracing women at the base of this carving relates to its use; headrests such as this were used a pillows, helping to preserve the complex hair-styles of the Luba people of the Congo and to keep the back of the neck cool during sleep.

Headrests were, indeed, a cherished possession and sign of social status. The two women depicted here appear identical, and twin births were highly symbolic, known as 'children of the moon' signifying hope, rejuvenation and benevolence. This object was part of a large and varied collection of 30 works of ethnographic art, formed by W. O. Oldman, which the Art Fund presented to the nation on account of its 'exceptional merit'.

Provenance

Mr W O Oldman.