DescriptionHAUSA, Northern Nigeria
Bird Head Decoy Headdress
Hornbill head, leather, fiber
The Hausa, along with several neighboring peoples, use hunting decoys in the form of a large bird head and curving neck, which broadens at the base into a cap-like form that can be fitted to the hunter's forehead and held in place with straps of leather or fabric. The decoy, "burtu," projects above the hunter's body as he bends over, stalking prey in the tall grass or scrub of the Savannah areas in which these peoples live. The bird of choice for such a decoy is a large hornbill that is essentially a ground-dweller. If the hunter makes any noise, prey animals, seeing the head and neck of the hornbill, credit it to the harmless hornbill, thus allowing the hunter to get close to his prey for a good bow shot.
Some decoys are realistic wood carvings of hornbill heads and necks; others, such as the present example, use real hornbill heads and necks covered with tightly-stretched, sewn-on leather for added realism.
The decoy is a practical hunting aid; however, before major ceremonial hunts, "bago," hunters gather with their decoys and the village priest conducts ceremonies designed to increase the hunters' abilities to identify with prey animals, thus adding an element of supernatural control to an essentially pragmatic object.
From the Estate of Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg
Height: 14 inches
Estimate: $700 - $900.
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