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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.5763
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 500 BC to 200 AD
Dimensions: 11.5" (29.2cm) high x 5" (12.7cm) 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. The stylistic tendencies originated by the Nok carvers, including the proportional emphasis on the head and the columnar form of the body, remain prevalent throughout modern black African art today.

Although only a fragment of a female torso, it is clear that we are in the presence of a noble figure. The attentive details of her elaborate, beaded jewelry are astonishing. Her shoulders are almost completely covered in a thick band of necklaces. Two sashes fall from inbetween her diminutive breasts and wrap around her sides, meeting at the back. Her wrists are both adorned with four beaded bracelets while five rings of belts cover her waist. The prominence of the jewelry enforces its importance as a marker of status and rank. This must have been a most powerful member of the Nok society, perhaps a queen. Her private regions, frontal and posterior, are covered in a woven cloth. The texture of this garment is perhaps one of the finest features of this masterpiece. The sculptor has managed to convey a sense of the individual stitches, while also indicating the zigzag pattern that decorates the fabric. The majesty of this torso is astounding. Although the culture that created this stunning sculpture has long since vanished, this woman continues to appear as beautiful and dignified to our eyes as she must have in her own time. - (PF.5763)


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