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.


Represents a ritual scene of a mask by a palm tree.

Cultural context

craft; tourist art

Physical description

Palm tree on round platform covered with wood chips. Figure representing a man is holding a rope over his right shoulder while bending down to a ritual mask at a shrine. Mask holds four horns and a small vessel. Second mask leaning against the mound of wood chips has two horns and a vessel on top. Man is wearing knee-length trousers, a short-sleeved shirt, and a round hat. Palm tree, masks, platform, rope, four horns, head, arms, and legs are dark brown. Pants, trousers, and larger vessels are light yellow-brown. Hat, three horns, small vessel, and top of palm tree are light red-brown.