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ID number:  BIRRC-D0175
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts
Artist / Maker:  Ona, Thomas (c. 1900-1960)
Title / Object name:  Wood carving of district officer 'on tour'
Object type:  Sculpture
Place made:  Ijebu Ode, nr Lagos, W. Nigeria
Culture:  Yoruba
Materials:  Wood
Measurements:  34 x 9 cm
BIRRC-D0175.jpg

Woodcarving of a European in a canoe with umbrella and four crew men. White, indigo and traces of pale red. Three paddles, umbrella, flag and pipe. (D.O.'s helmet and a crewman with steering paddle missing.) Purchased in Lagos from the carver Thomas Ona of Ijebu Ode in the late 1930s. Bequested to the University by E.H. Duckworth in 1978.

Notes:  European settlers were a subject, as well as a market, for West African art. This carving by Thomas Ona Odulate depicts a district officer, a mid-level rank of the British Colonial Service, with a crew of rowers.
Thomas Ona Odulate (active 1900 – 1952) produced a great number of these woodcarvings depicting both Europeans and Yoruba. Created as tourist pieces, almost all were sold to the British. While they seem to be satirical or caricatures, Ona said that his work represented daily life and were not intended to represent any particular individuals.
Yoruba carvings traditionally use one piece of wood (and demonstrate their skill that way), but in contrast Ona incorporates many separate elements – in this piece, the umbrella, oars and pipe. Ona produced his carvings using the traditional adze (a type of axe) and imported red and black inks, and white shoe polish as well as local kaolin clay.

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