Headrests, Stools, and Chairs

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Headrests and neckrests serve as pillows, in that, in East and Central Africa, where they are commonly used, they allow a user to sleep on his/her side with the head supported at a comfortable height (Roy, 1985). Headrest use goes back into African Antiquity and many examples of them could be found in Kemet, Ancient Egypt (Visona et al., 2001). While a headrest is a very personal piece of furniture to support the neck, head and elaborate coiffure, a stool may be a piece of furniture for household use, a royal throne or a sacred object. But even as a piece of household furniture, a stool owned and used by an elder member of a family, especially, of the larger extended family, gains some attributes of a throne. The stool becomes a symbol of wisdom that comes with experience and age and is encrusted with authority that society accords elders of an extended family. It is in the context of a multi-faceted symbolic character that stools and chairs in the exhibition from the Reginald Petty African Art Collection are indicative of overlapping aesthetic and utilitarian values in African Art.