The Head

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye." Miss Piggy, 1974—present (TV puppet character)

The need to belong and to understand one’s own identity is universal. We are the only creatures who consciously adorn ourselves. Decoration serves basic biological, psychological and social needs. For thousands of years the body itself has been the creative palette for many cultures. Clothing, hairstyle, jewellery and markings form the basis of our identity.

This photograph of an Ibo woman depicts one of the many styles from Nigeria alone. In Africa, hair receives the most care and attention as it plays an important role in social communication.

Appearance often reflects or enhances a person’s gender, age, status and role. The head is the main focus of communication between people. Facial decoration can also reflect geography and climate. People around the world adorn their heads, hair and bodies with expensive, rare or sacred materials. We can often tell a lot about a person by the way they look.

Postcard of Hollywood actress Greta Garbo

Ideals of facial beauty vary with culture and time. Two thousand years ago, wealthy Mayan women wore jade ear spools and lip plugs. Jade was considered more precious than gold. Green, the colour of plants, symbolised life. Their teeth were encrusted with precious stones and their beauty was enhanced by a forehead enhanced by deliberate cranial shaping from a very young age.