By William Dewey
Pennsylvania State University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Nok peoples

Kneeling beaded figure


H. 10.6 cm (4 3/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 60.J.2

Photo by Dirk Bakker


Other stylistic features seen on the Nok terracottas include: semicircular eyes with incised pupils, arching semicircular eyebrows echoing the shape of the eyes, and nostrils and ears that are also pierced through. The heads, torsos, and limbs are often realized as geometric forms—cylinders, spheres, or cones. A high forehead is another common convention with careful attention paid to the hair, often depicted with a topknot or buns. Dress and ornamentation are carefully delineated, and on some figures, such as this small (four inch) kneeling man, there is a profusion of beadwork. This figure also illustrates a style trait that is shared with most African art, either ancient or modern: the head is disproportionately large in relation to the body. A hole running through the figure suggests it may have been worn as a pendant.