Headrest, Yaka or Teke-Mfinu
Democratic Republic of the Congo
6"/15.2cm tall
wood, pigment
early to mid 20th century
ex Maurer Headrest Collection (Evan Maurer)

Although many Yaka headrests incorporate human and
animal forms, this unusually abstract example displays both
simplicity and elegance. The overall patina on the headrest is
smooth and worn from extensive use. This example, unlike
many others, still retains its metal collar under the support.

For additional detail click on any thumbnail to see a high resolution version of the image which will open in a new window.
Additional photos can be provided by request if needed.
"The Maurer headrest collection was assembled by Evan Maurer with great care over almost four decades. Evan's criteria
for acquisition was aesthetic merit, sculptural quality, rarity, and finally condition. His discerning eye was honed by more
than fifty years in the arts. Concentrating on the fine arts and art history, Maurer earned his B. A. at Amherst College in
1966, his M.A. at the University of Minnesota in 1968, and his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974.  His ties to
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts date to 1967 when he served as a curatorial intern and then in 1971 when he became
assistant to the director and curator.  In 1973, he served as curator of African, Oceanic and Modern Art at the Institute and
then moved to the Art Institute of Chicago, where we was curator of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
and an assistant professor for eight years at the School of the Art Institute.

Maurer was director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor from 1981 until he rejoined The Minneapolis
Institute of Arts in 1988 as director.  While at Michigan, he became a tenured professor of art history and also chaired the
Graduate Program in Museum Practice.

Headrests have been considered by many to be utilitarian or ethnographic, as some art collectors marginalize them with  
this descriptive category. But markets do mature and come to understand as Marc Ginzberg and Bill Dewey have taught
us that not all great works are figurative." - ArtTrak
“The shape of the support is widespread throughout the province of Bandundu. It is found on many Yaka headrests. Nevertheless, the
headrest whose form is the closest was collected by Albert Maesen in Kingala among the Teke in 1953. (Yale # 0124530 ) Cf. Van
Hassenhove (Donatienne), "Sièges de l'Afrique centrale. Photos d'archives du musée de Tervuren", Tervuren: MRAC, 1996:64-65 (with
field photo).” - François Mottas

In the Yale archives, a similar headrest (0132951) came from me and that one and this one can be compared to 0124530 which is the one
listed as Teke. Two similar headrests (0112659, 0115334) are listed as Yaka.