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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Nok terracottas.

Nok2200 - head

The terracotta statuary of the Nok Culture is a classic art style whose sudden appearance has radically challenged the traditional art history of African Sculpture. 


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Lees ook Nok Beelden artikel in de Morgen

Protected African art can simply be bought in Antwerp. 
read De Morgen 
(English translation)

Nok figure. TL dated. 2200 years old - 65.5cm Collection David Norden.

sokotoPottery figure found at Sokoto, Nigeria. Height 45cm+/- 2000 years old, 43 cm

Archetype of Aesthetics : the invention of a canon in African art.



Four main characteristics distinguish the NOK STYLE.
1. The treatment of the eyes, which form either a segment of a circle or sometimes a triangular form, with the eyebrow above balancing the sweep of the lower lip, sometimes making a circle.
2. The piercing of the pupils, the nostrils, the lips and the ears.
3. The careful representation of elaborate hairstyles, with complex constructions buns, tresses, locks and the profusion of beads around the neck, torso and waist.
4. The realism in the modeling of the curled lips, the straight nose with flaring nostrils and the large overhanging forehead.


The earliest known sculpture of large size in the Sudan is that produced in pottery by the Nok culture, which flourished extensively in northern Nigeria from the 5th century BC into the early centuries AD. These people were the first known manufacturers of iron in western Africa, furnaces at Taruga having been dated between the 5th and early 3rd centuries BC; they continued, however, to use stone tools. Of well-fired clay, their sculptures represent animals naturalistically; human figures, however, are depicted with heads that are usually tubular, but sometimes conical or spherical, and with simple tubular trunks and limbs. The art of Nok indicates the antiquity of many basic canons of West African sculpture, but the precise relationship between ancient and modern forms is obscure.

Nok figures where made for religious purpose as proved by subject and attitude.

Nok terracotta figures are cult objects representing deities, spirit figures, mythical beings or deified ancestors.

Some of the earliest examples of sophisticated sculpture in sub-Saharan Africa come from the Nok culture. We do not know what the people called themselves, so the culture was named after the town of Nok where the first object was found. The fired clay or terracotta sculptures range in size from small pendant to life-size figures. Nok is an iron age culture that has been dated between 900 B.C. and 200 A.D. Archaelogical artifacts have been found in Nigeria, primarily to the north of the Niger-Benue River confluence and below the Jos escarpment. According to some accounts, based on artistic similarities between early Yoruba art forms and Nok forms, there may be connections between Nok culture and contemporary Yoruba peoples.

Books on Nok:

3791336460The Nok Culture
Author: Gert Chesi, Gerhard Merzeder; Buy New: $74.00Nok Terracottas
Author: Bernard Fagg

Nok auctions results:

Dimanche 28 Mars 2004. Rambouillet 76, rue de Groussay, 15h00 sculptures, bronzes. Parmi les 80 sculptures présentées, on retiendra les 7 600 euros obtenus sur une tête de notable nok du Nigeria en terre cuite à engobe beige orangé. 

Toujours d'une tribu Nok du Nigeria, une statue de femme en terre cuite était cédée pour 14 000 euros et une statue aviforme était adjugée 6 800 euros. Faure et Associés, SVV - Tél.

Publications on Noks:

Fagg, B: Nok Terracottas (Lagos, 1977), no. 59, pl. 59.

Arseniev, V.: Culture de l'ancienne espace nigérienne,"Hermitage Readings". The George Ortiz Collection, St. Petersburg (12 April 1993), pp. 18-22, 27.

The Birth of Art in Africa: “ Nok Statuary in Nigeria “by Bernard De Grunne 1999, ISBN: 2876602423 Book Description: HARDCOVER VILO 1998. D *In Nigeria. This volume presents sixty-five illustrations of terra-cotta sculptures from the Nok, Sokoto and Katsina cultures of Nigeria. These objects, dating from 600 BC to 300 AD, form the oldest traces of the remarkable sculptural tradition from sub-Saharan Africa. Color/b&w illus; maps. 121p.

Exposition Catalogue "Tierdarstellungen in der afrikanischen Kunst - Sonderausstellung Nok und Sokoto “ Kamp-Lintfort, Kunsthandel-Agentur Bernd Schulz, 21/04-30/06 1996, 24pp.(ill.).

“Highlights from 2000 Years of Nigerian Art” Eyo, Epko. Logos (Nigeria) Federal Department of Antiquities, 1973. app. 40 pp., 31 illustrations. approx. 6"x 11", An exhibition catalogue with some unusual figures; portrait busts are the major focus.

Treasures of Ancient Nigeria. EYO (Ekpo) and Frank Willett. Book Description: Detroit Inst./Knopf NY 1980. paper edition 162pp, color, b/w illustrations

AFRICAN ARTS. Vol. XXVII, No. 3. Memorial to William Fagg. African Arts, Book Description: July 1994, Los Angeles, 104 pp. Memorial to William Fagg. Includes: E. Bassani, "Additional Notes on the Afro-Portuguese Ivories"; F. Willet, B. Torsney, & M. Ritchie, "Composition and Style: An Examination of the Benin 'Bronze' Heads" , R. Abiodun, "Understanding Yoruba Art and Aesthetics: the Concept of Ase"; and A. Fagg, "Thoughts on Nok".

Nok Sculpture

found on the quai Branly site

Nok quai BranlyNok sculpture
500 BC - 500 AD
Figure with personages in low-relief
Musée du quai Branly

The discovery of a series of terracotta objects called "Nok" dates from 1928. A small number of broken pieces were brought to light by the tin miners on the Jos plateau, in the centre of Nigeria. In 1939, a British archaeologist, Bernard Fagg, was nominated administrative officer of the Nigerian colonial service and took up his post at Jos. He realized the potential archaeological importance of the region. Shortly afterwards, several important sculptures were discovered, for the most part heads that had belonged to broken statues. One of the most remarkable was used as a scarecrow. Another notable find was made by miners on a tin extraction site. In studying these pieces, Bernard Fagg came to the conclusion that an important culture existed. Over the last ten years, new discoveries have been indicated. Of the more than five hundred known, the examples of Nok art are of different sizes, varying from ten centimeters to almost life-size. Most reproduce human beings, but also a few animals. The smallest figures, pierced with holes, were perhaps worn as amulets or ornaments. The largest, with their elaborate hairstyles, finery, ornaments with a profusion of beads, are doubtless images of important personalities. The sculpture showing a personage placing his chin on his knee could be an element of the furnishings of a sanctuary or indicate a tomb.
One can observe, surrounding the other work, a succession of scenes of everyday life, described in detail : agricultural work, culture and harvesting of high cereal stalks, shelling of sheaf's with the help of combs, transport of jars, preparation, making and consuming of food... The six personages have their arms raised and carry above their heads an imposing snake that they seem to celebrate. This theme is common in the arts of West Africa. Its association with agricultural scenes and figurations of maternity here suggest the existence of a cult intended to favor procreation, fertility, as well as good harvests.

read also:

Nok beelden artikel in de Morgen (Dutch)

Protected African art can simply be bought in Antwerp. 
read De Morgen 
(English translation)

in french: Faut-il brulez les collectionneurs par George Ortiz, collectionneur

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Timbuktu Manuscripts 

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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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