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

Nigeria; Nok peoples



H. 36 cm (14 13/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.1

Photo by Dirk Bakker


This head is almost life-sized and if attached to a full figure would represent one of the largest of Nok sculptures. The pierced triangular eyes with arched eyebrows and pierced mouth, nostrils, and ears are all typical of Nok style. The coiffure buns each have a hole, which may have held feathers (a style still seen until recently in the area).  Almost all of the Nok objects are hollow (the exception being a few very small, solid figures) and were fired in the open air, as is pottery throughout Africa. From breaks in the objects it can be seen that the coil method was used for building up the sculpture. We do not know who the sculptors of these figures were, but because most African potters now are women, it is possible the Nok artists were also women.