Lot: 255

Excellent zoomorphic headrest "mutsago" in form of an antelope, 19th century

Zimbabwe, Shona / Tsonga

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Oliver Miller, Suffolk, Great Britain
Bishop & Miller, Suffolk, 4 July 2015
Finch & Co, London, Great Britain (2015)
Belgian Collection
H: 6.1 inch 45000 EUR / 70000 EUR

wood, superb old silky smooth patina, Headrests "mutsago" were carved and used solely by men. Primarily they were designed to support the head while sleeping in order to protect elaborate hairstyles. In addition "mutsago" headrests are believed to connect their owners with the spirit realm. The Shona believe that dreams provide a direct connection between the dreamer and his ancestors ("mudzimu" / "mhondoro"), allowing the dreamer the ability to communicate with the spirits. They are also used as a tool by diviners to communicate with ancestral spirits, asking them for assistance in the physical world. Headrests were very personal objects. They became closely linked with the owner's identity over a lifetime of use. Upon the death of its owner, the headrest is either buried with him or passed on to a male heir (either his brother or to his son).


Roberts, Allen F., Animals in African Art, New York 1995, p. 130, ill. 52 f.
Finch & Co, Genius & Art, London 2015, ill. 1