The artwork in question is a Nigerian Nupe vessel. It was created circa 1900s by an unknown artist. Nupe people lived in certain areas of Nigeria. They had their traditions that can be traced in numerous pieces of pottery. The vessel in question is quite big and hand-made with quite deliberate ornamentation. This unglazed vessel is made of earthenware clay and the wood firing was carried out at quite low temperatures.
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As for the form, the vessel is quite asymmetrical though proportion is kept. The vessel has a large belly, quite narrow waist, smaller shoulder and a thick rim. It is noteworthy that the pot does not have a foot and, hence, it cannot stand on a flat surface without a special padded ring. In fact, the ring completes two tasks as it can be used to make the vessel stand on a flat surface. It can also be utilized for carrying the vessel on the head. This is a usual way African people carry things. The pot has quite a curved silhouette.
As has been mentioned above, the pot is not glazed and it is covered with hand-made ornaments. It is noteworthy that Nupe people are Muslims and this has certain effect on the ornamentation. Hence, the vessel does not have depictions of human faces but is richly decorated with ornaments. The ornamentation shows the way Nupe people managed to reveal various concepts and daily life details without depicting humans. Those people developed a sophisticated system of geometric symbols (“Nupe Pot Clay with Raffia Stand Old Nigeria African” par. 1). The color of the vessel is dark brown with lighter spots on the ram and upper part of the shoulder. The artwork is functional as it used to be utilized for carrying and storing things.
It is necessary to note that the piece has numerous imperfections when it comes to its shape. Thus, it is rather asymmetrical and its surface is rather rough. However, the decoration of the piece is really remarkable. It seems that the artist was not focused on the form but concentrated on ornamentation. This can be explained by people’s religious beliefs. Ornamentation is very important in Islamic cultures and even though the shape can be quite imperfect, the decoration is really meticulous.
It is also necessary to remember that the vessel was created in the 1900s in Africa and it had quite a specific purpose. The pot was used for carrying and storing things, hence, its artistic value was hardly taken into account. The artist used the knowledge of ancestors to create a functional thing aimed at helping people complete their every-day tasks. At the same time, the artist still found time to adorn the vessel. This fact suggests that the artist was a religious person (as he used Islamic traditions) and wanted to add aesthetics to people’s lives. At present, the artwork has a great historic and artistic value. It sheds light on the way people lived in Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Nupe Pot Clay with Raffia Stand Old Nigeria African. Web.