What Is The Significance Of The Head?

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African men and women within the realm of the African diaspora have historically decorated their heads in inventive and unique ways. Its central transcending position makes the head an ideal site for the aesthetic and symbolic elaboration of the body. In many African languages, as in English, the word "head" is used metaphorically. Some common meanings of kun, the word for head in the Bamana lan- guage spoken in Mali, include leader, main, premier, highest, superior, chief, and source. Among the Karamojong of Uganda, the word ekasikout, head, also means elder and signifies a person with great wisdom, experience, and moral influence (Pazzaglia 1982:96). These and similar associations in many other African languages shape the ways people conceptualize …show more content…
Headwear and hairstyles seem to fall more often within this latter category. In the thought and moral imagination of many societies in Africa and the African diaspora, the head itself is a potent image that plays a central role in how the person is conceptualized. Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, for example, the head is the seat of ori, personal destiny. Surrounding this “inner head,” the physical head, visible to the world, becomes the focus of many important rituals. Some rituals to the head center on the king as the embodiment of his people 's destiny. Individuals, too, perform regular rites at their own personal altars of the head (Abimbola 1973:77-85). In 1982-83, when the singer Sunny Ade experienced a serious illness, he composed the now popular song “Ja fun mi” as a supplication to his inner head (Thompson 1993:146-47). Among the Kaguru of Tanzania, the top of the head should be respected; one should avoid touching others in this spot. The head connects persons to birth and ultimately to the land of the dead (Beidelman 1993:64). Among the Kalabari Ijo of southeastern Nigeria, the head, specifically the forehead, is the locus of the spirit, teme, that controls one 's behavior (Barley 1988:16). For the Tabwa of Zaire, the center of the forehead is regarded as the seat of wisdom, prophecy, and dreams (Roberts 1990:42). Many African societies believe that intelligence resides in …show more content…
An individual 's lifelong moral struggle is to bring the two into balance (Cisse 1973:147, 156-57). In a similar way the Iteso of Kenya believe the head and heart embody two different capacities of the individual-knowledge, perception, and skill in the former, and the stronger emotions in the latter. For the Iteso, qualities associated with the head are cumulative and can grow over time, enabling people to manage themselves and their affairs. Mental illness and drunkenness are described as illnesses of the heart because they entail an individual 's loss of control over the head. When someone becomes possessed by spirits, people say that "the spirits are sitting on the head," and the possessed person must struggle through the ritual process to regain control of it (Karp 1990:86). Headwear and coiffures are regularly used in Africa to transform the head, and by extension the whole body, into a cultural entity: they can denote membership in certain religious and initiation societies, mark and celebrate changes in a person 's lifecycle, identify key participants at rituals and festivals, and designate warriors, diviners, hunters, musicians, and other

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