“Until recently, Western scholars have not shown a great interest in the culture flourishing in the northern part of East Africa. Nineteenth century travelers wrote accounts of their meetings with indigenous people, but there was little interest in their artistic output since the majority were nomadic and they tended to carve small, easily portable objects. The impact of the Islamic slave trade at the end of the 19th century and constant inter-tribal wars contributed to the near extinction of some of these peoples. Information about them is scarce and fragmentary.

The Dinka and Shilluk settled in southern Sudan and their carvers produced wooden headrests which have a three-legged natural shape. They are made from a branch of a tree that has been pruned into the right shape and are often suggestive of animals. A man’s status was frequently shown by the quality of his coiffure, so a neckrest was used during the night in order to keep it in place. Dinka elders also use these high neckrests as stools – it is considered undignified for a dignitary to sit on the floor.

Ivor bracelets are worn by Dinka and Shilluk elders during communal ceremonies.”



Baquart, Jean-Baptiste. The Tribal Arts of Africa. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1998. Print.