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

The word "Sango" is written on the base, indicating this shrine is likely for the god Sango, the Yoruba God of Thunder.

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

Figures representing two women and one man standing in front of a shrine which holds two masks, of which four horns are set in the two masks. The two women are holding horns and one horn is stuck to the hat and the head of the smaller woman. Masks, bodies, and two horns being held by women are dark brown. Horns and hats are light red-brown. Dresses and pants are light yellow brown. Carvings are set on a platform covered with thorn tree chips. "Sango" is written on the bottom of the platform.