Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Nupe Igbo Clay Terracotta Pot Container African

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Title Nupe Igbo Clay Terracotta Pot Container African
Type of Object Pottery, Vessel, Container
Country of Origin Nigeria
People Nupe or Igbo
Materials Clay
Approximate Age Unknown 20th Century
Height (in) 5
Width (in) 7
Depth (in) 7.5
Overall Condition Poor. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair Large crack

Additional Information:

Numbering about 350,000, the Nupe have along standing reputation as makers of fine pottery and ceramic objects. Since they are mostly Muslim, their vessels almost always feature lovely incised decoration, without human images. Exceptionally, this one has an abstract or schematic human face.This could be seen as an influence from the Nupe neighbors or other groups from Nigeria such as the Tiv and the Ga'anda living in the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. The Tiv are a large group of more than one million people living in North-east Nigeria. They are famous for their wooden carvings as well as for their brass figures and their ceramics. Ritual vessels in the form of a head and these with a large open mouth were found in the Ga'anda territory, too. Without any field information on this example such attribution would remain hypothetical.

The artworks of the Nupe are highly respected, even though the variety of objects they produce is very small. The limited nature of Nupe art is due to the strict influence of Islam, which has controlled the social and religious life of the Nupe for at least 250 years. Muslim law forbids the use of art objects that possess human figural elements, considering them profane. The Nupe, unable to express themselves in such fashion, instead developed a magnificent ability to decorate utilitarian and marriage-related objects with intricate geometric incising and abstract features. They craft extraordinary carved calabashes and wooden bowls, fashion stunning terra cotta vessels and pipes, and weave exquisite, highly-prized textiles. Thus, the Nupe are among the most superb potters of Africa. The popularity of Nupe art with serious collectors is a testament to their skills and their unique adaptability to social upheaval.

For more information on African pottery and excellent examples of Nupe pots, see SMASHING POTS-WORKS OF CLAY FROM AFRICA by Nigel Barley.; Kathleen Bickford Berzock (ED.) FOR HEARTH AND ALTAR. African Ceramics from the Keith Archepohl Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, 2005; Perani, J.M. Nupe Crafts: The dynamics of Change in 19th century and 20th century Weaving and Brassworking, 1977; Stevens, P. Nupe Woodcarving, Nigeria, 1966; Arnulf Stossel, Nupe, Kakanda, Basa-Nge: Gefasskeramik aus Zentral-Nigeria, 1981; Arnulf Stossel, Afrikanische Keramik, Traditionelle Handwerkskunst Sudlich Der Sahara, 1984; Leith-Ross, Sylvia, Nigerian Pottery, 1970.