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 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. 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. They are carved by men.


Verandah cooking scene, a fireplace and utensils used for preparing food are kept here. The food is prepared and eaten here by the family both polygamous and monogamous.

Cultural context

craft; tourist art

Physical description

Domestic scene including fifteen figures representing people, six of which are at a table, two of which are bearing pots on their heads, two of which are stirring food in a pot, one of which is tending a child, one of which is ladling food from a pot, and two of which are watching a cooking pot. There is a large empty pot in one corner. The figures at the table and two standing over a cooking pot are wearing shorts, one of which is wearing a sleeveless shirt while the others are wearing short-sleeved shirts. One at the table is wearing a round hat while two at the cooking pot are wearing soft conical hats. All other figures, except the naked child, are wearing knee-length dresses. The dress on the figure with a ladle is sleeveless. Two serving pots contain hardened glue-like substance while the cooking pot and bowls on the table contain variegated shavings. There is a large spoon in the cooking pot and a stirring stick in one serving pot. The cooking pot has a tripod support and two sticks under it. Table, benches, three serving pots, stirring sticks, and clothing other than hats are light yellow-brown. Human bodies, pots on heads, cooking pot, and seven bowls are dark brown. Hats, contents of cooking pots, small bowls, and cups are light red. Base is brown plywood.