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Colonial Carved Wood Figure of a Soldier by Thomas Ona Odulate

Yoruba People, Nigeria
circa 1920

height: 26.5cm



from the private collection of a London collector who was given it 50 years ago, in London, as a gift.

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

The carved wooden image here is of a standing, uniformed soldier or trooper. He has many fine details including his satchel bag that he carries on his back, his high leggings or boots, his rank stripes on his arms, his buttoned-down collar, and his lopsided hat – a typically whimsical addition by Ona.

Another notable feature is the Yoruba scarification on the cheeks of the trooper.

Finally, the trooper still have his original rifle present. It has been carved separately and is not fixed to the image so usually these are lost, even among examples held by museums.

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 Christie’s Amsterdam ‘Tribal Art’ sale of September 12, 2002 for a similar representation of a uniformed soldier.


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

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