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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Nok, Katsina, Sokoto : Nok Terracotta Torso of a Woman
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Nok Terracotta Torso of a Woman - PF.5602
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 500 BC to 200 AD
Dimensions: 18" (45.7cm) high x 5.5" (14.0cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The artifacts of the ancient Nok people are among the oldest sculptures found in Africa outside of Egypt. Because their existence was not even know until archaeological expeditions in the 1940’s, almost nothing is known of their customs or culture. However, through recent finds, we can determine the expanse of their civilization and the unity of their artistic style. Typical of much later black African art, there is an emphasis placed on the head. The pupils, nostrils, and ears are all depicted by a series of holes. This woman has an elaborate hairstyle: four mounds have been gathered at the top of her head and braided strands fall along the back underneath her headband. Careful attention has also been paid to her jewelry and costume. Her wrists are covered with bracelets. A winding fabric crosses her stomach and back has been gathered around her neck and waist. The boundaries of the form are completely cylindrical, as if the Nok sculptural tradition developed from wood and ivory carvings and was transferred to pottery with little experimentation. This extraordinary sculpture is the resounding echo of a great culture whose cry has been silence by time. - (PF.5602)


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