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

Nigeria; Yoruba (Owo) artist



H. 17.4 cm (6 7/8”)

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 73.2.7

Photo by Dirk Bakker


In 1969 Ekpo Eyo excavated a site in the Yoruba town of Owo and found terracotta sculptures dating to the 15th century. Owo is situated halfway between the Nigerian towns of Ife and Benin, and so it is not surprising that Owo art displays characteristics of both traditions. The Ife style is quite obvious on this Owo terracotta head. The parallel striations on the face, the overlap at the corners of the eye, the raised edge of the lips, and the parallel line on the upper eyelids are all Ife traits. The eyebrows are more clearly delineated than at Ife. Curiously none of the Owo terracottas wear crowns. Recently a priest in Owo showed Eyo two rediscovered ancient heads with holes drilled in them so they could be worn as pendant heads in the Benin manner (Eyo and Willett 1980: 16).