Delve into the rich heritage of African art with this intricate salt-cellar sculpture, from Nigeria.
Made of elephant ivory this sculpture comprises three sections: base, middle, and lid. It features Portuguese figures with aquiline noses and beards, static front-facing figures dressed in jackets, and dynamic three-quarter view figures carrying swords and shields. The lid is surmounted by a European ship, and there are two pierced lugs.
The oeuvre features Europeans with long hair, beards, and angular noses. This was the first known example of ‘tourist art’ from Africa, luxury items made as souvenirs for foreigners. The mid-fifteenth century saw regular contact and trade between Africans and Portuguese traders, with the main interest being the purchase of carved ivory items. The ruling Oba allowed decorated salt cellars, horns, spoons, and forks for European visitors.
Source: British Museum.