Nigerian House of the Head Personal Shrine
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The round leather container with flat bottom is made in the shape of a royal African crown. The inward sloping sides are covered with fabric onto which cowrie shells are stitched; four small framed mirrors are attached to the top section. This lidded container was meant to hold offerings made to the right hand and the head by the Yoruban men. These body parts represented strength, masculinity, success, and personal achievement. There is evidence of blue pigment, probably from an offering or sacrifice, on the interior. The cowrie shells were a symbol of status and wealth. Cowrie shells were used as currency in pre-Christian times in India, the Middle East and China; they remained a means of payment into the 20th century in Africa and the Pacific Islands. They are found mostly in the Indian Ocean region, and so were considered a rarity in western Africa. Slave traders probably brought cowrie shells to western Africa. In some countries, the cowrie shell represented fertility, and was given to brides to guarantee offspring and provide a safe delivery. African royalty and other community leaders also used cowrie shells for personal adornment. African Folk Tales; African Novel Study 16 History; 18 Social Systems
|Yoruba (African people) Social life and customs|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University Library|
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