Field-photo of the day: a Nigerian farmer with an interesting moustache

Nigerian farmer, photographed by Fagg in 1960. Published in: Fagg (B.), “Nok terracottas”, Lagos, 1977: p. 27, fig. 21.

Nigerian farmer, photographed by Fagg in 1960. Published in: Fagg (B.), “Nok terracottas”, Lagos, 1977: p. 27, fig. 21.

I recently came across the above field-photo of a Nigerian farmer taken by the British archeologist Bernard Fagg in 1960. His incentive to photograph this man is rather interesting. Fagg must immediately noticed that the farmer’s moustache, represented by two small projecting tufts at the edges of the upper lip, in fact is a typical feature of many male terracotta “Nok” heads he had previously discovered in the region – see an example below.

The Nok culture, which blossomed from 900 B.C. to A.D. 200, is sub-Sarahan Africa’s earliest known sculptural tradition. Unfortunately, little is understood about how this civilization ended. Bernard Fagg wrestled his whole career with two important questions: Where did the Nok culture come from ? And where did it go? Spotting this farmer’s moustache must have certainly gave him hope in his wish to establish a stylistic continuum between Nok and the later Nigerian civilizations.

Nok head (Nigeria). Height: 15,5 cm. Ex Collection Musée Barbier-Mueller. Image courtesy of the Musée du quai Branly (73.1996.1.1).

Nok head (Nigeria). Height: 15,5 cm. Ex Collection Musée Barbier-Mueller. Image courtesy of the Musée du quai Branly (73.1996.1.1).