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

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

Nine figures representing people are surrounding a shrine. There are five sitting male drummers, two standing males with arms extended, and two kneeling females with arms extended, one of which is holding a thorn-like object. Standing males are wearing short-sleeved shirts and knee-length shorts. Seated drummers are wearing short-sleeved shifts. Women are wearing skirts only. Three figures are wearing different hats. Three drums are conical with wide bases are resting on the floor, each of which is struck by two drumsticks. Two conical drums with circular heads and narrow bases are resting on the floor, one of which is being struck with two drumsticks while the other of which is being struck with the palms of the hands. Shrine consists of two small armless figures and one large double-mask with four horn-like projections resting against a smaller, single-mask. Seven additional horn-like objects are scattered. All clothing, one hat, drum heads, conical drums, small mask, and six horn-like objects are light yellow-brown. All figures, large mask, and five horn-like objects are dark brown. Three hats and one horn-like object are light red-brown. Wood floor base is covered with scattered pebbles and wood chips.