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.

Cultural context

craft; tourist art

Physical description

Figures representing people in front of a shrine. One woman is bending before the shrine holding a fly swatter, wearing a short-sleeved dress, and with her hair braided into a top knot. One woman is kneeling before the shrine holding an offering of a chicken, and she is wearing a short skirt and a large soft hat. One figure is prone before the shrine, and she is wearing a short-sleeved dress. One male musician is beating a conical drum (membranophone) suspended over his right shoulder with a leather strap, and he is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and pants. One male musician is holding a vessel-shaped drum suspended over his left shoulder with a cotton strap and is holding a drumstick in his right hand. One male musician is holding a vessel-shaped drum slung around his neck with a leather strap while holding two drumsticks in each hand. One female figure is sitting on the ground holding a dish, and she is wearing a sleeveless knee-length dress. Two male figures are holding long staffs, and they are wearing knee-length robes. One musician is holding a clay drum and a beater, and the musician is wearing a short-sleeved dress and a soft pointed hat. One female figure is holding a fly swatter and a horn-shaped vessel, and she is wearing a short-sleeved dress with her hair in a top-knot. One figure is holding up a fly swatter in her right hand, and that figure is wearing a short-sleeved dress and a pointed hat. Two masks with horn-shaped vessels on top, and one horn-shaped vessel on the ground. Five soft pointed hats, fly swatter, two horn-shaped vessels, one large soft hat, and the chicken are light red-brown. Clay drum, and beater, outside of drums, limbs, and heads are dark brown. Clothing, mask-like shrines, thorn-shaped vessels, top of drums, and one horn-shaped vessel are light yellow-brown. Top of dish shrine, marks on horn-shaped vessels, on large soft hat, and on vessel drums are indigo. All figures are on a plywood platform covered in thorn chips.