Thorn Carving Item Number: 3446/3 from the MOA: University of British Columbia


Thorn carving depicting a group of eight musicians. Figures adhered to square particle board base. All are sitting in a circle on cylindrical stools, facing one another. All figures are wearing long, short-sleeved tunics. Figures in corners wearing hats. Four figures are playing different types of drums, two by hand and two with sticks. Drum in bottom left corner has a white and yellow cloth strap and is being played with one curved stick. Other figures are playing a stringed instrument, horn, pot(?) and wood block instrument. Stools, figure outfits, horn, pot(?), drum heads, sticks and square base are light yellow-brown. Figures, the shells of the drums and wood block are dark brown. Donor initials on base.

History Of Use

Thorn carvings are miniatures depicting a variety of scenes from Nigerian life. The carvings first began to be made circa 1930. The thorns vary in size; they can be as large as 12.7 cm long and 9.6 cm wide. The thorn wood is comparatively soft and easy to carve; they are traditionally carved by men.


Acquired in Nigeria during the years 1975-76, when the donor’s father was teaching at the Benin Technical College, in Benin City, Nigeria. The whole family was there for two years, while his father worked under the auspices of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Cultural Context

craft; tourist art

Specific Techniques

The light yellow-brown thorn and the dark brown thorn come from the ata tree; the light red-brown thorn comes from egun trees. The parts are glued together with viscous paste made that was made from rice cooked with water.