Wednesday, 25 March 2015

New Acquisitions: Nok Terracottas

Replica terracottas and moulds on my desk for cataloguing, below replica terracottas.
I recently catalogued a new acquisition from the daughter of Bernard Fagg, former curator and Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum. The donation was of a number of Nok terracottas and moulds among other things detailed below. Fagg was an archaeologist and anthropologist whom, prior to becoming curator at the Pitt Rivers, worked for the British Colonial administration in Jos, Nigeria during the Second World War. During this time he excavated the Pop Rock Shelter on the Jos Plateau. It was during this excavation that Fagg found evidence of Nok culture including distinctive Nok terracotta figurines. Fagg became somewhat of an expert on Nok culture and wrote 'Nok Terracottas' published by Ethnographica for the National Museum, Lagos in 1977. A publication which was very helpful when cataloguing this collection. 
2012.103.7; cast of Nok terracotta figure, depicting a female figure mounted on a cylindrical splayed and hollow base. 

2012.103.3; cast of Nok terracotta, fragment of a figure.

2012.103.8; fragment of a figure, arm with ornaments shown on the upper arm and at the wrist. The hand is holding a hafted axe.
2012.103.9; cast of terracotta head from Nok.

2012.103.1; cast of terracotta head from Nok.
Fagg commissioned the moulds in the mid-to-late 1960s so that it would be possible for the originals to remain in Nigeria and for museums in the West to be able to show replicas of the newly discovered art. The moulds are excellent material evidence of a moment in the history of the study and presentation of African art and of the history of museological practice. The moulds are made from plaster with a rubbery/ latex inner. The replicas bare a close resemblance to the original terracottas, some of which feature in Fagg's aforementioned publication. 

2012.103.20; cast for creating replica Nok terracotta 
As well as the replica terracottas and moulds in this recent donation were also two African walking sticks belonging to Fagg, a gourd bowl with local repair, two fibreglass reproduction casts of Benin brass plaques in the PRM collections and a replica of the Cook voyage collection hei tiki, perhaps with the intention of selling it as merchandise in the Museum shop. 

2012.103.14; ornately carved gourd bowl.
2012.103.14; detail of local repair of gourd bowl.
2012.103.11; Repica Benin plaque, replica of original from PRM collections: 1900.39.2.
2012.103.15 .1 & .2; replica Forster collection hei tiki.
Faye Belsey
Assistant Curator

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