African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Wurkun (Northern Nigeria), north-eastern region

Hardwood with a dark coating
H 53.5 cm
Half-bust sculpture supported by an old iron.
A stylised, wiry figure with a half-bust torso on a circular base. The body is slender with arms by the chest, it has a navel, and its face can scarcely be made out with geometric patterns, and traces of sacrificial substances.


€ 4.000 - 5.000

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- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano) (Morigi inventory label num. 667);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


- DAGAN ESTHER A. "African dolls for play and magic" Montreal, Canada 1990, pag. 90, fig. 23.2;
- ROBBINS M. WARREN & NOOTER NANCY INGRAM “African art in American Collections” 2004 Atglen, PA-USA, pag. 298, num. 771 (1009);

These figures were used in pairs for magic and divinatory purposes. They were planted with their iron tip in the ground inside a hole in dwellings or at the entrance to villages. Their purpose was to protect the harvest and safeguard villagers from bites from venomous snakes. Those planted in the fields were covered with red soil, whereas those kept inside the house received sacrificial offerings and cleansed with palm oil. The Wurkun were a small group, located in the north-east of Nigeria, who are culturally linked to the Jukun, their neighbours. These divinatory figures, common in both groups, are called “tau-kenda” and “tau-wandoa” for females and males respectively.


African Art

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