African American Art
Ancient American Art
Arms and Armor
Art of the Pacific Islands
Decorative Arts and Design
European Paintings Provenance Project
Native American Art
Prints and Drawings
5th–mid 1st century BC
Unidentified Nok artist
10 3/4 x 5 1/8 x 5 3/4 in. (27.3 x 13 x 14.6 cm)
Kaduna, Plateau, or Nassarawa state, Nigeria
On View, Gallery 102
This particular Nok head is distinguished by its flaring nostrils, pierced eyes, asymmetrical hairstyle, and tufts along the lip that indicate a moustache. The neck suggests that the head may have been broken off from a nearly life-sized figure. This sculpture’s geometric regularity speaks to an art form that was highly refined, demanding careful planning.
Named after the village of Nok in central east Nigeria, this culture flourished from about 500 to 50 BC and arose at one of the earliest known iron-smelting sites in Africa. In the absence of extensive archaeological evidence, significant gaps remain in our understanding of the development of Nok culture and the uses of its terracotta statuary. It has been suggested that the society may have been governed by a system of kingship. Other sculptures from this tradition include figures of heavily armed and decorated warriors, dwarfs, and heads of sacred animals, all of which are associated with kingship.
Kofi Hassan, Kafachan, Nigeria, Africa 
1994 - 1996
Charles Jones African Art, Wilmington, NC, USA 
Alexander Gallery, Inc. [Thomas Alexander], St. Louis, MO, purchased from Charles Jones African Art 
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Alexander Gallery, Inc. 
 The National Commission for Museums and Monuments at the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria issued an export permit dated August 12, 1994 to Kofi Hassan of Kafachan, Nigeria. The permit authorized Hassan to export this object, identified as "NOK head with damage to one side of hairdo 12" high" that was "excavated within his legal mining district" [SLAM document files].
 See Note . The export permit identifies that Charles Jones African Art was issued the original export permit. An undated, unauthored note identifies Charles Jones [Charles Jones African Art] purchased this object in August 1994 and Thomas Alexander purchased it from Charles Jones on March 21, 1996 [SLAM document files].
 See Note .
 An invoice dated April 18, 1996 from Alexander Gallery, Inc. to the Saint Louis Art Museum documents the purchase of this object, listed as "Nok terra-cotta head / Nigeria" [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, May 16, 1996.
African Highlights (2008)
July 2008 - October 2009
Saint Louis Art Museum
Permalink to this object