Sokoto Male Head
Sokoto region, Niger valley, Northwest Nigeria, 100-500 AD (TL tested)
Height : 44 cm
Provenance Bouraima Bachirou, Lomé
Private collection, Belgium
This massive head of remarkable quality embodied certainly a religious leader or a deified ruler. The sculpture exudes an expressive strength and an austere majesty that is quite unique in the whole corpus of terracottas found in the Sokoto region.
Sokoto state in modern-day northwest Nigeria is in the Niger River Valley, at the confluence of ancient trade routes and roughly contemporary with the Nok culture to its south. Very little is known of the ancient Sokoto culture; Bayard Rustin, who originally collected the Sokoto collec- tion for the Yale University Art Gallery, recorded that most terracotta pieces like this one were found in large manmade mounds. Characteristic Sokoto figures are large, hollow, thin-walled, and low-fired human figures with heavy eyebrows and beards. They are made of a rough earthen- ware mixed with quartz and mica, surfaced with an ocher or mica schist slip (some of which has worn through on this figure). This slip would have been burnished with a smooth pebble.
This particular example, apart its superb sculptural qualities, is in remarkably good condition.