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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Nok, Katsina, Sokoto : Sokoto Sculpture of a Bearded Man
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Sokoto Sculpture of a Bearded Man - PF.5845
Origin: Northern Nigeria
Circa: 500 BC to 200 AD
Dimensions: 11.25" (28.6cm) high x 3.75" (9.5cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Sokoto style emerged alongside the Nok and Katsina cultures. Discovered through archaeological expeditions in the 1940’s, almost nothing is known about the society or its customs other than the spectacular terracotta sculptures they left behind. Alas, was it not for these artifacts, their culture might have been completely forgotten. Fortunately, works such as this Sokoto sculpture survive, a hint of the sophistication and beauty of their artistry. These sculptures represent some of the oldest artistic creations in Sub-Sahara Africa and could be the mother culture that originated the stylistic tendencies that continue to be pervasive throughout black African art today, the most obvious lasting influence of which is the disproportionate emphasis placed on the head.

This Sokoto sculpture of a male is a perfect example of the Sokoto style. The most distinctive feature and the hallmark of the Sokoto style is the figure’s linear brow that has worn away over the ages but is still clearly visible. The subtle horizontal lines almost seem to join each other above the broad, flattened nose. Otherwise, much of the modeling and material is closely related to the Katsina and Nok styles. The texture of the figure’s beard is elaborated by a series of vertical linear incisions, typical of the Sokoto style. The figure’s headdress is also quite extraordinary, carefully textured to imitate woven materials or else, possibly, the texture of braided hair. Other series of engraved lines along the figure’s thin arms and wrists represent bracelets and armlets. Overall, this sculpture is indicative of the artistic mastery achieved by these Ancient West African sculptors. - (PF.5845)


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