The objects in this case suggest the wide range of contexts in which the human head plays a central role in African art. From the idealized representation of a human head on a Kuba drinking cup to the finely carved ivory handle of a Mangbetu knife, the head is both an important motif in the arts and a crucial locus of meaning in many African cultures. In sculptural representations, the head is often portrayed as the most important part of the human body, sometimes being disproportionately large relative to the size of the rest of the figure. Its importance is also reflected in the numerous practices that aim to alter, conceal, mark, or beautify the shape or appearance of the human head; such practices include masking, the use of head gear, scarification, tooth filing, ear piercing, the wearing of jewelry, and the knotting, braiding, shaving, or otherwise coiffing of the hair. The art of hairdressing—to create not only beautiful, but also meaningful styles—is widely practiced on the African continent; combs, sometimes featuring the upper body and head of a human figure, were one of the indispensable tools for this elaborate art form. In many parts of Africa head coverings, in the form of hats, helmets, and caps, are worn to publicly mark the ethnicity, status, or individual accomplishments of the wearer; a beautifully adorned Kuba cap, for example, was reserved only for rulers.