Nigerian culture is demonstrated through art, dance, literature, folklore, and music. Crafts are symbols of Nigeria’s material and spiritual heritage. Crafts are well integrated into the living patterns of Nigerians and inseparable from their spiritual philosophies. They are therefore prized objects for the promotion and preservation of tourism. Nigeria is one of the African countries widely admired for their artistic heritage.
Local Nigerian arts and crafts are of different kinds. Some of them are practiced in specific cities while others are practiced all over the country. From time immemorial, craftwork has been a source of livelihood for many Nigerians and this has encouraged archaeologists to explore more about the ancient Nigerian arts and crafts. According to archaeological finds, Nigeria’s artifacts depict the early life of the people dating bank to 2000 years. Some of the findings are the Nok culture of the North of the Benue River which flourished from 500 BC to 200 AD of terracotta figures associated with extensive user of iron. The source of this knowledge of iron technology has been attributed to the civilization of ‘Meroe’ in what is today the Republic of Sudan, as well as to Carthage North Africa.
Some of these crafts include;
Pottery is considered one of the oldest crafts in Nigeria and history shows that it dates as far back as 100 B.C. The tradition has been maintained all over Nigeria both in the North and Southern part of the country and today, Nigeria pottery ranks among the most artistic in the world. The best known pottery centres in the country are found in Abuja, Suleja and Ilorin. Potters in Nigeria are predominantly women and it is a widely accepted belief that they often pass the craft to their relatives and newer generations. In practice, potters skillfully carve pieces of heated clay into usable vessels for cooking and various other domestic purposes.
The Yorubas use a shrub to create indigo-colored batik-dyed cloth. In Ife, Osogbo, Abeokuta and Ibadan, women traditionally do the dying, while in the Northern part of Nigeria, similar craft is practiced by men, dyeing is carried out in open dye-pits some of which are two to three metres deep. A local vegetable from which an indigo colour is extracted is employed as colouring agent. This craftsmanship is still carried out in Kano. Weavers all over the country produce a bright fabric with lace designs. Oyo state is known for its fine loom cloths while cloth from Abia state uses a broadloom technique.
Bronze and Brass
Bronze and brass casting are still practiced in Benin, Bida and South Western part of Nigeria. However, the discovery of the famous Ife and Benin bronzes brought this indigenous work into lime light. Apart from the Benin and Ife bronzes, archaeological finds at Igbo-Ukwu have revealed advanced ancient works of art.
The Igbo-Ukwu bronzes which have elaborate intricate, symmetrical designs are as remarkable as the better known Ife works. The town “Igbo-Ukwu’’ consists of seven villages namely Etiti, Obiuno, Ezigbo, Ezihu, Umudege, Akukwa, and Ngo.
Woodcarving is one of the most cherished traditional crafts in Nigeria and it is commonly practiced by people in areas like Osogbo, Oyo, Awka, and Benin. The art of woodcarving demands great craftiness and people often devote ample time to acquiring its techniques. In some families and households, the craft is often inherited as fathers pass it to younger generations. Through the in-depth expertise of woodcarving, some people design implements, figurines, doors, panels and other utensils which are useful for artistic decorations at homes and other places. Cane weaving is a common aspect of woodcarving as it requires the practice of interweaving reeds of cane into chairs, tables, stools and other attractive items which can be used in furnishing homes. Some expert carvers also use strands of woven grass in making hand-held fans, mini tables, hats and baskets for domestic uses.
Archaeologists in Nigeria have found a tradition of sculpture making that dates back to at least 500 B.C. Statues and statuettes of ceramics, bronze, terracotta and brass were found in Nigeria. Bronze casting is a traditional art found mostly in the southwestern area of the country. Nigerian bronze work is often used to depict striking realistic statues and masks.