New Guinea Headrests

This article looks at the various different types of Papua New Guinea Headrests. It has lots of images to help readers identify where a New Guinea headrest comes from and what it is worth. Some New Guinea headrests are quite beautiful in their own right and are a collectible form of tribal art.

I buy tribal headrests from New Guinea and Pacific Art so if you have one to sell I would love to see it. If you want to know what your New Guinea headrest is worth please feel free to send me a Jpeg. I will give you my opinion




Tribal Headrests general information

Headrests have been around since before the time of the Pharos and are on almost all continents across the globe. Headrests are from Africa the Middle East, Ancient China and right through the Pacific islands. It is not possible to cover all tribal headrests from all cultures or even the variations within a single culture. This article aims to give the reader some idea of the scope of headrests found in the Pacific.

Tribal headrests vary widely in their function as well as design. Some were to keep elaborate and ochred hair does in pristine condition. Other were to protect the Mana or life energy. Some were skulls used to communicate with ancestors while dreaming and others covered in protective totems.

New Guinea headrests by Area

New Guinea Headrest Huon Gulf

Headrests from the Huon Gulf also tend to have figures. The figures tend to be Cubistic.

Most have two figures at either end but some have a single powerful central figure.

Most headrests were collected in the early 20 century,  They were important especially when ochred hair was fashionable. Ochre was expensive an a headrest meant reapplication was minimized.


New Guinea Headrest Korwar

These headrests come from Western New Guinea or Irian Jaya. They often have figures at both end and floral designs in the middle.

The figures at the ends have a distinctive arrow-shaped nose.

Tribal Headrest Sepik River

Headrests from the Sepik are often made up a wooden body and cane legs. They tend to be elaborately carved with mask-like faces. Some headrests from this area are from a single block of wood but are still elaborately carved.

The majority of headrests from new guinea come from the Sepik.

Markham Valley Headrests

These headrests are very rare and come from Papua New Guinea near Lae. Most often they are made from a natural piece of timber forming the headrest with a face on one end.

They are the most sort after and collectible headrest from Papua New Guinea.

Collingwood Bay headrest

Headrests from Collingwood Bay have the central portion carved with chevron patterns. They are very distinctive

PNG Highlands headrests

Tribal headrests from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea tend to be minimally carved and functional.

Those with unusual shapes or intrinsic beauty are more collectable

Image: Michael Hamson Oceanic Art.

Papuan Gulf Headrests

Headrests from the Papuan Gulf are rare. They are often anthropomorphic and very collectible.




New Guinea Headrests

I hope you can appreciate the vast variety of New Guinea headrests.  As Art, they can be extremely expressive and come in a vast variety of sizes forms and shapes. There are many more varieties of Headrest or neck rests than can be shown in any one article. if you want to know more about headrests I can recommend reading Oceanic Headrests by Meyer.

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy New Guinea Shields or Kundu Drums 

All images in this article are for educational purposes only.

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More images of New Guinea Headrests

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