Culture Behind Sculptures

The Centenary Project

An exhibit of contemporary Nigerian sculptures by Adeola Balogun and Olu Amoda

The Household
The household is the nucleus of daily living in many local communities in Nigeria. The following sculptures capture some aspects of life in rural homes where the artists were raised.

Mother and Child

Breastfeeding is a very important part of Nigerian culture. For one chile, women would breastfeed for up to one year. It is often regarded as the hallmark of motherhood.

The life-size sculpture is cast in bronze.

Mother and Child

The sculpture aims to depict a mother who contemplates the child as she breastfeeds it. It is believed that breastfeeding for longer periods boosts the child's immunity to disease.

Homemade Dyeing

Cloth dyeing is a well-known practice in many rural households. This sculpture depicts a typical mother or housewife dyeing a piece of cloth at a homemade dye pit. The cloth will be completely immersed in the pit full of already prepared dye.

Homemade Dyeing

The woman is in deep concentration as her face reflects. Her hairstyle is synonymous with the time (all-back cornrows), she ties a wrapper, which is the typical dressing when one is at home.

Homemade Dyeing

The pit contains the already prepared dye, and the cloth is immersed in it several times. The woman is removing the cloth and squeezing out the excess liquid.

Stretching Aso-Oke

Before the coming of electricity in Nigeria, people would straighten their clothes by beating it with a hard and heavy wooden pestle. In Nigeria, this is still done in rural areas where electricity is not readily available. The sculpture is cast in bronze and is life size.

Stretching Aso-Oke

The sculptured man is preparing to go out and is stretching out his 'agbada', the local male attire for social events. His cap is also made from the same material as is typical of the Yoruba culture.

Stretching Aso-Oke

The hard wooden pestle is used to beat the cloth consistently. Eventually it begins to generate heat that will straighten the cloth.

Stretching Aso-Oke

Captured here is the 'agbada' being straightened, note that he is straightening and folding it, so that it can have the adequate gator line.

Yam Pounding

The preparation of certain foods in many Nigerian cultures goes beyond the stove and the kitchen. This sculpture depicts a woman pounding 'yam' – very likely in her backyard.

Yam Pounding

Pounding yam requires strength. It is a rigorous activity, but it results in a fluffy, soft delicacy. Her face reflects the concentration required by such a task; her hand is in motion, and the pestle is about to come down hard on the yam in the mortar.

Yam Pounding

The mortar is a thick, large wooden bowl designed to receive hot balls of soft, cooked yam, while the pestle hits hard at it.

Target Practice

Back then, young boys will pick up a catapult and use it to pluck fruits from trees, hit at small animals and hit at each other for fun. It is a favourite pastime for young boys.

The sculpture is life size and cast in bronze.

Target Practice

Note the young boy's stance. He head is stretched far back and his eyes appear to be focussed on his target. The sculpture captures the moment when he has just released the pebble/stone, with his left arm outstretched in front, holding the catapult.

Ten-Ten

Ten-Ten is a very popular game back in certain Western Nigerian cultures. Young girls in pairs would play the game by making rhythmic movements to the tune of their harmonic claps. At the end of each session, they place one leg in front or spread both legs – all in quick succession.

Ten-Ten

The little girls are excited, as the expression on their faces indicate. Their hairstyles are made of simple braids of three. This game is normally played at home, hence one of them clothed loosely, a common sight in rural areas.

The sculpture is life size and cast in bronze.

Ten-Ten

The game is all about leg movement, and that is how the points are scored. If one of the players stretches a leg before the opponent kicks another leg forward, a point is scored.

The Community
Beyond the home, cultural and social life is forged in the community where one encounters individuals who help to carve the typical lifestyle found in many Nigerian rural settings.

Search for a Groom

This piece was commissioned to depict young unmarried women in certain local communities who try to attract men by their looks and seductive postures.

The Local Baird

This is the traditional guitar, popular in the Western part of Nigeria. The player's outfit is synonymous with people that play for festivals or are part of a musical group.

The Local Baird

The guitar is small and oval shaped, joined with a long stick that holds the single string, that the guitar player strums on.

The Local Baird

The guitar player is sitting comfortably with the guitar in his hand. He strums away at the guitar releasing a sweet melody. His long shorts are the typical attire in the Western or Northern cultures of Nigeria.

The Local Baird

The guitar player exudes delight as he sings to the sweet melody the guitar is producing. His hat is made of flat material, that sits perfectly on his head.

The Blacksmith's Apprentice

In many local Nigerian communities (especially among the Igbos), blacksmithing has been known over the years to be an important component of economic and social life.

In this sculpture, the blacksmith's assistant is hard at work pumping hot air into the furnace.

The Blacksmith's Apprentice

The two bags at the feet of the man, are usually made of rubber and are not always of the same size and shape.

The Blacksmith's Apprentice

The apprentice is enjoying the rhythm the bellows produce as he constantly pumps in air. He is without a shirt because of the heat generated by the furnace.

Customs and Festivals
Every community has its own traditions, ceremonies and celebrations. The following sculptures represent the artists' attempt to capture some of these.

The Eyo Masquerade

The Eyo festival is the most celebrated festival in the Lagos and is emblematic of the culture of the city. Traditionally, the Eyo is celebrated when the Oba (or king) has passed on.

These days, the festival has become a tourist attraction.

The Eyo Masquerade

The masquerade wears a lace-like veil that is draped over the head to conceal its face. The hat is typically large, wide-brimmed and can be of a variety of colours depending on the particular conclave or group each masquerade belongs.

The Eyo Masquerade

The masquerade carries a long black staff popularly called the Opa. This staff is the most significant of the masquerade's regalia. It is a staff of authority carried by each and every Eyo and is the most feared piece of item by onlookers and spectators.

The Eyo Masquerade

The main outfit is the flowing white 'agbada' that covers the whole body, including the hands and feet. An important piece of apparel worn with the white agbada is the aropale which is tied around the legs and sweeps the city of Lagos clean of evil and ill luck.

The Wrestler's Pose

The Bachama wrestling festival is celebrated annually in the North East of Nigeria. This sculpture is a representation of how these wrestlers dressed and posed before a ceremony.

The Wrestler's Pose

Indigenees of the Bachama Kingdom gather in the month of March, every year to celebrate the Kwete Cultural Festival to pray for bountiful harvest and sustain their rich cultural heritage. Events during the festivities include the Bachama wrestling competition.

The Wrestler's Pose

Men in their mid-twenties compete in the wrestling competition. They squat (just as the sculpture was carved) in line, waiting for their turn to fight.

Music Makers
Music is a big part of culture, and in Nigeria, music has played a pivotal role in development and as part of our cultural heritage.

The Slit Drummer

The slit drum is a hollow percussion instrument, that is popular among many tribes in Nigeria. The sound that the drum gives out is a function of which hole was struck and the drummer's style of play.

The Slit Drummer

The slit drummer was a favourite of the Oba (king in Yorubaland), he would sit in front of the palace and play for the Oba’s guests as they arrive, or play for the Oba.

The Slit Drummer

The slit drum's design appears simple but is technical; a section of log or tree branch with a long slit carved along its length, through which the middle of the log is hollowed out. The slit stops short of reaching the ends of the log, so that the ends are left intact.

Musical Trumpet

The Kaakaki is an ivory, trumpet, that is usually three to four metres long. It is used in Hausa traditional ceremonial music.

Musical Trumpet

Its sound is synonymous with royalty and it is only played at events at the palace of the king or sultan in Hausa societies. It is used as part of the sara, a weekly statement of power and authority. The instrument is exclusively played by men.

A Music Box

The Agidigbo is a percussion instrument popular among the Yoruba's (Western part of Nigeria). It is a traditional plucked lamellophone. The player wears a rope around his neck, which he uses to support the box.

A Music Box

The player wears a thick "ring," usually a bottle neck, on his thumb, which he uses to tap the sides of the wooden box. He then uses his ten fingers to pluck the instrument's metal tongues.

Music for Money

As seen in modern times, people sit by the street corner and play a guitar, and passers-by drop a few coins in a hat. In some locales in Nigeria, people would walk around villages and towns, play an instrument and sing a sweet melody for a few coins.

Music for Money

It was a means of livelihood for some. The sculpture represents a young boy whose drum has suffered damage, and thus, he cannot continue to play for the day, so he takes a nap. The sculpture is cast in bronze and is life size.

Credits: Story

Curator: Patrick Enaholo / Emem Akpabio
Photographs: Ralph Eluehike
Text: Emem Akpabio / Patrick Enaholo

© The Centenary Project

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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