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 beard indicates the man is an elder. The containers and cup in the carving would contain palm wine.

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

Figure representing a bearded man sitting on a cylindrical stool. He is bare-chested, wearing a soft pointed hat and knee-length pants. He is holding a gourd-shaped container in his left hand and a cone-shaped cup in his right. In front of him, there are two bulbous-shaped containers with necks. Behind him, there is a tree trunk. Pants are light yellow-brown. Head, limbs, tree trunk, and stool are dark brown. Containers are light red-brown. The base is light brown wood.