Male Figure (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

500 BC–AD 200
Africa,Nigeria,Sokoto region
Overall: 22 × 10 × 7 in. (55.88 × 25.4 × 17.78 cm)

The art and history of ancient Egypt and Nubia are well documented and widely known. By comparison, far less is known and understood about the ancient history and art of the rest of Africa. Recent discoveries in northern Nigeria—from Sokoto in the west to Lake Chad in the east—are opening new chapters in African studies. Objects found in these locations demonstrate earlier, more widespread cultural and artistic developments than previously imagined.

Powerfully modeled heads, some with their torsos still intact, characterize the works from Sokoto. The heads are often modeled with heavy eyebrows that slope downward from the nose to the ears.

Throughout the Sokoto region, royal figures wear multi-strand beaded necklaces, while high-ranking officials have flywhisks, staffs, and swords. The terracotta models shown here are probably commemorative portraits of deceased Sokoto leaders, a conclusion supported by the multiple necklaces and the staff or flywhisk on the shoulder of the head and torso.

Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.