moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark, pakistan

Headdress – Pakistan

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In line with the aesthetic variety as offered by Tuxen’s shoe collection, headwear comes in a myriad of cross-cultural shapes, sizes, and colours! And although it might not reveal itself as such at first sight, this garment is actually meant to be worn atop the head – more specifically a Pakistani Kalashi woman’s head.

Collected by Halfdan Siiger on the 3rd Danish Expidition to Central Asia in 1947-49, this cowrie seashell-embroidered headdress was brought home to Moesgaard Museum from beautifully scenic Chitral Valley of Northwest Pakistan. The item represents traditional everyday wear for women of this region, although being a much less colourful example than usual – bright colours, polytheism, and rather liberal marital arrangements are main characterizations of the Kalashi tribe, thus making for a very different social organization than among the Muslim majority of Pakistan.

And – in some resemblance to the Woodabe Wife Stealing Festival of Niger – the Kalashi arrange similar festivals where women are known to elope to form marriages with the men they’ve set their eyes on. Regardless of parental approval, and regardless of whether they were already married to someone else (in which case the divorce must, however, be announced prior to the actual festivities).

From a hidden valley across the globe, this headdress thus speaks of unusual female freedom. For pictures and more info on the unique Kalashi tribe, see this article.


/ Ciara Coogan



Photo: © 2014 Jacob Due, Photo/Media Department of Moesgaard Museum.

Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck,

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