Wood headrests are both a longstanding and widespread form created by African sculptors. Shona sculptors from present-day South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique have contributed a rich range of formal and aesthetic interpretations.
Among the Shona, headrests served as a kind of “pillow” used by adult males to sleep. The user could sleep either on his back with the headrest under the base of his neck, or on his side with the headrest under his chin and one ear. Headrests also provided a means to keep the elaborately braided coiffures of Shona men in good order and free from soil or dust.