France has returned today to Nigeria five ancient terracotta sculptures which had been smuggled out of the country in 2010. Experts say Nok art is the earliest attempt at portraiture yet discovered in Nigeria. Over the past 100 years, Nok art has been discoverd in a large area near the Jos plateau in northern Nigeria. The Nok culture shows that African societies were quite versatile in iron works, and terracotta. I had posted an article earlier on the Nok culture. I am just glad to see that sometimes the French, with the pressure from the country from which it was stolen, can return stolen artefacts. There are so many of our artefacts, manuscripts which have been stolen and are still kept in museums in France. Applauds to the Nigerian government which kept demanding the return of their artefacts. These should all be returned. I fear that very soon, we will also find Timbuktu’s manuscripts at the Louvre.
Ever since I saw an image of a Nok figurine on the cover of my history textbook in 6eme (grade 5), I have been fascinated by this civilization. These neighbors of ours, had a civilization which flourished in the Jos plateau in the northern part of modern-day Nigeria between 800 BC and 600AD. The Nok civilization is considered the oldest African terracotta civilization. They were very advanced, and many people have mentioned similarities to the Egyptians. Their work shows great mastery of the firing process as emphasized in their sumptuous sculptures and artistry.
Nok art work is unique and detailed. Most sculptures found so far represent kings, queens, dignitaries, wizards, animals, etc. One thing that stands out the most when looking at the Nok sculpture of a woman is the hairstyle. It makes me feel so proud to see that 800 years BC, Nok women wore elaborate braids, cornrows, etc… the same way we African, no Black women wear our hair today. Imagine going back 2800 years ago and meeting beautiful Nok women with hazelnut eyes looking at you with the same hair-do as yourself!
Nok sculptures vary in size and can reach up to 1,20m. How were the Nok able to make such life-size terracotta statues without having them explode or shatter into pieces during the firing process? Well… they used branches from trees and trunks as the central core of the sculptures.The website Memoire d’Afrique has a detailed account on the Nok Civilization ingenuity. Check it out: http://www.memoiredafrique.com/en/nok/geographie.php and wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nok_culture