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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Nok, Katsina, Sokoto : Sokoto Terracotta Sculpture of a Man
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Sokoto Terracotta Sculpture of a Man - PF.5782
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 500 BC to 200 AD
Dimensions: 11.5" (29.2cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Sokoto style emerged alongside the Nok and Katsina cultures. Discovered through archaeological expeditions in the 1940’s, almost nothing is known about the society or its customs other than the spectacular terracotta sculptures they left behind. Alas, were it not for these artifacts, their culture might have been completely forgotten. Fortunately, works such as this Sokoto sculpture survive, a hint of the sophistication and beauty of their artistry. These sculptures represent some of the oldest artistic creations in Sub-Sahara Africa and could be the mother culture from which the stylistic tendencies that continue to be pervasive throughout black African art today originated. The most obvious lasting influence of these styles is the disproportionate emphasis placed on the head.

This Sokoto sculpture of a male is a perfect example of the Sokoto style. The most distinctive feature, and the hallmark of the Sokoto art, is the figure’s prominent, linear brow. The horizontal lines almost seem to connect, covering the indented eyes in shadow. Otherwise, much of the modeling is related to the Katsina and Nok styles, including the nose and mouth structures. However, some of the sculptural elaborations of this piece are truly remarkable, such as the diagonal grid pattern above his eyes perhaps representing bushy eyebrows or ritual scarification. The texture of the figure’s beard is elaborated by a series of vertical linear incisions. The headdress is also quite extraordinary and is topped by a small central peak in the center of his head. Other series of engraved lines probably represent bracelets and necklaces. Overall, this sculpture is indicative of the artistic mastery achieved by these once forgotten Ancient West African sculptors.
- (PF.5782)


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