Carving of a European official with two policemen

British Museum

British Museum

This wooden carving shows a European official mounted on a horse and carrying a whip over his shoulder, flanked by two African policemen. From the 1940s onwards, African carvings of Europeans were becoming increasingly popular with both Europeans living in Nigeria and with locals. These carvings captured the essence of the European colonialist 'other' in dress and manner: pith helmet and long socks, moustache, book, spectacles. Such details were often exaggerated in sculptures that expressed rank and authority while gently caricaturing the sitters. They were painted with imported inks and shoe polish to make them visually more appealing.One of the most renowned carvers of this genre was Thomas Ona, who produced numerous images of Europeans from the colonial period. His motivation for representing these figures appears to have been a personal interest in depicting rank and hierarchy rather than a desire to provide a satirical comment.

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  • Title: Carving of a European official with two policemen
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 68.00cm; Width: 52.00cm; Depth: 40.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Registration number: Af1942,07.15
  • Place: Found/Acquired Igbo-Ora
  • Peoples: Made by Yoruba
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: wood
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: From Gladstone, E M. Collected by Gladstone, Harold Stewart