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Yoruba House of Heads Cowrie Shell Crown African

Product #: 107659
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Title Yoruba House of Heads Cowrie Shell Crown African
Type of Object Hat, headdress
Country of Origin Nigeria
People Yoruba
Materials cowrie shells, cotton cloth, animal hide, palm ribs
Approximate Age mid 20th century
Dimensions Height: 22 Inches
Width: 9 Inches
Overall Condition Fair. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair loose decorations, dust and wear in places and patina, leather trimming and triangular amulets are fragile showing signs of age and wear

Additional Information:  Cowrie-covered symbolic crowns represent the Yoruba "cult of the head," a traditional belief that the head is the essence of personality, and has power to offer spiritual protection. The cowrie embroidery indicates both money and prestige. The top is designed in the form of a pyramid and is opened like the peak-roofed Kobi on the palace Veranda. The top at one time had more decoration and other beadwork that is missing now. Traditionally, these were destroyed upon the death of the owner, and the cowries spent as money, so they are rare. According to Thompson's BLACK GODS AND KINGS, ""The personal ruler of man is his head. The residency of his fate is honored with a crown, but the crown of the head is distinguished from the headgear of the king by lack of fringes."

Recommended Reading:

Drewal , H. J. and J. Pemberton III, with R. Abiodun Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, (New York, 1989)

Drewal, H. J. and M. Thompson Drewal., Gelede, Art and Female Power among the Yoruba. 1983.

 Fagg, W. and J. Pemberton III: Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa, (New York, 1982)

Lawal, B.: The Gelede Spectacle. Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture. (Seattle, London 1996)

Mato, D., Chelsea Cooksey, Yoruba: Art of Life. The Bennett-Luther Collection, Denver 2004 

Witte, H.: A Closer Look; Local Styles in the Yoruba Art Collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal. 2004.