Inventory no.: 1894

Thomas Ona Odulate Wood Carvings


Three Colonial Wood Figures Attributed to Thomas Ona Odulate

Yoruba, Nigeria

1920s-early 1930s

heights: 23cm – 28cm

Thomas Ona Odulate, also known as Thomas Ona, was a noted Yoruba wood carver, active in the early-mid 20th century. He worked at Ijebu Ode, and later in Lagos, mainly producing almost satirical representations of Europeans.

The three carved wooden images here are of a standing, uniformed trooper, and two seated district commissioners, identifiable as such because of the letters ‘DC’ carved into the fronts of their desks. One of the district commissioners holds an open book at his desk. The other also holds what might be a book. This latter one is the only one to have painted embellishments: his pupils, shoes, the bands on his hat, and the letters ‘DC’ have green highlights. Both commissioners wear long, buttoned-up jackets, with shirts beneath. A particularly charing feature of the soldier or trooper is the satchel bag that he carries on his back and his high leggings or boots.

Small wooden images of colonial European figures by Thomas Ona can be found in the collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow.

Also, see lot 263 in Christies Amsterdam ‘Tribal Art’ sale of September 12, 2002 for similar representations of a district commissioner and a uniformed soldier.


Quarcoopome, N. O., Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2009.


UK art market

Inventory no.: 1894


Thomas Ona, photographed in the 1930s.