Nok Head


-4/-1 cent. 
22 cm


This fragmentary terracotta head is a fine example of the stylistic tradition of Nok culture. This archaeological civilization takes its name from the village in which the first remains were discovered in 1943. It spread to central Nigeria around the Jos Plateau between - 900 BC and 875 AD, which makes it one of the oldest known cultures in sub-Saharan Africa. Nok works were produced by hand and not molded.


The first important work on Nok art is Nok Terracotta and was published in 1977 by Bernard Fagg, the brother of the famous British art curator at the British Museum, William Fagg.

The eyes are worked obliquely. They are worked by incision, the pupils having been dug. Above the eyebrows are highlighted by two bands of incisions taking the oblique upper eyelids. In the center of the face takes place a nose greatly impressed. The mouth has fleshy lips. The treatment of these elements of the face brings an expressive force to this fragment of figure. The hairstyle worked in buns is finely incised and decorated with small patterns which brings softness to the whole and counteracts the expressiveness of the face.

Today, very little data exists on the usefulness of the figures from which this head originates. The archaeological remains seem to exclude the hypothesis of a funeral use and thus could suggest that these statuettes would represent kings, queens or any other important person, who were venerated in cultural places.