Musamo (Headrest)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

The Mbudye is a council of respected members of the community, both men and women, tasked with upholding the historical and political principles of the Luba state. Much like modern governments, Mbudye exists to interpret and implement laws, and to check the power of kings and chiefs.

There is a hierarchy among Mdbuye, and members can attain increasing levels of achievement by mastering arcane legal and social knowledge. Only those at the top are permitted to interpret the intricate designs and motifs central to Luba traditions.

As part of the initiation into the third level of Mdbuye achievement, the council member in question sits upon a large throne to signify his or her moral ascension. As part of the ceremony, the Mdbuye experience possession by Luba spirits known as Bavidye, allowing them to undertake political roles and responsibilities.

At this stage, figurative headrests are used as pillows, both for comfort and to protect the intricate hairstyles of those taking part in the initiation. These symbolic hairstyles represent different social statuses and professions.

The Luba believe that headrests are also "seats of dreams", mediating between the earth and the head of the person resting upon them. They are highly personal and are often buried with their eventual owners.

Distinguishing Features

  • Coiffure sometimes contains medicinal substances to empower headrest
    • Inserted into hole in top of head or front of ear
  • Distinctive coiffure
  • Many depict female figure(s)
  • Some are abstract, geometric shapes
  • Rarer are headrests supported by animals (often an antelope)

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