Thorn Carving

About this object

History of use

Thorn carvings are miniatures depicting scenes from Nigerian life. This type of carving began circa 1930. Thorns are carved by men and vary in size. They can be as large as 12.7 cm long and 9.6 cm. wide. They are comparatively soft and easily carved.


This thorn carving was made specifically for the donors by the artist.

Cultural context

craft; tourist art

Iconographic meaning

According to the collectors, the carving represents Osa Oko of Longe. Longe is likely a farm settlement, or forest reserve, and Osa Oko is its deity.

Specific techniques

The light yellow-brown thorn and the dark brown thorn come from the ata tree; the light red-brown thorn comes from egun trees. The parts are glued together with viscous paste made from rice cooked with water.

Physical description

Three figures representing people, involved in a ceremony, facing a shrine wall with two masks mounted on plywood back covered with variegated thorn shavings. Kneeling female figure wearing only a long skirt is touching a horn protruding from a mask placed against the shrine wall and touching the forehead of a second mask which has horns protruding from the forehead. Two male figures wearing knee-length pants are each holding a horn in their right hands and one is wearing a draped cloth hat. Figures, masks, three horns, and some chips are dark brown. Clothing and some chips are light yellow-brown. Two horns and some chips are light red-brown. Carvings are set on a platform covered with thorn tree chips. "Osa Oko of Longe" written on base.