Pokot headrest
Kenya and Uganda
A beautifully adorned headrest from the Pokot people
Kenya and Uganda

8.5" (22cm) tall
Ex Christian Silvian collection, France
Field collected in Kenya in the early 70's
Click on any image to see high resolution version
Headrest from the book: Sleeping Beauties: The Jerome L Joss Collection of African Headrests at UCLA

Pokot? Turkana?

Kenya, Uganda
Wood, leather, beads
19.1x10.1x5 cm.
FMCH 91.59

"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)."

William J. Dewey - Sleeping Beauties: The Jerome L Joss Collection of African Headrests at UCLA
Initiated Potok male with distinctive blue mudcap hair ornamentation indicating his status. The
headrest on the left is also indicative of his age and status.
Photograph by: Herbert M Cole, Northern Kenya
Examples and information below for reference purposes

the objects below are NOT in my collection
This is my other Pokot headrest. It's currently with my stand maker getting a stand make so I'll have
additional photos soon.

It is also a wonderful example, but not as elaborately adorned example as my other one.

7.5" tall - Wood, leather and rope