Introduction to nigerian craft

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Craft is defined as a skill by use of our hands. The skill of craft is acquired by practice over a period of time and if acquired fully it becomes part of your skills.

In Nigeria, virtually all communities practice diverse forms of craft works and its products depends solely on the availability of the needed raw materials in the localities.

Such crafts include Calabash Decoration, Pottery, Textile Design, Leather works, Basketry, Mat weaving, Metal works, Bronze casting etc.

  1. Calabash Decoration

This is the designing and decoration of gourds which could be on different sizes. The gourd has a hard outer shell used as container for liquids or grains and for home decorations.

The gourds are cut horizontally to form portable containers and allowed to dry and the outer shell or part becomes hardened and brownish, in colour. This outer layer is where the calabash decoration takes place.

This outer hard brown layer is skillfully designed with the use of sharp curve knives and grooves and etching show on this hard surfaces which are finally coloured to produce beautiful calabash.

Location: South west, South east and Northern Nigeria.

  1. Pottery (Pot Making)

The art of producing various shapes and sizes of pots and hollow waves from earthly plastic material called clay through modelling and firing. It is purely a traditional ancient work in most African countries.

  1. Raw materials –Clay, firewood, concoction, ashes.

  2. Equipment/Modelling tools: Kiln (local or electric), beater, round bat, turning tools.

  3. Products: Terracotta Potts, containers like bowls, jugs, trays etc

  4. Functions: Pots generally are used for decoration, cooking, carrying and storage purpose.

  5. Location of Production: Abuja (Suleja), Ilorin, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Ekiti.

  1. Weaving

This simply means interlacing of flexible materials. It means turning various flexible materials into useful objects. Most items produced through weaving technology or techniques are mainly for household utility purpose as well as beautification –Mat weaving, bag weaving, Basketry, Rug weaving, Cane chair weaving etc. In most cases, the techniques of weaving these various items are quite similar with just a little difference in patterns, techniques and materials.

  1. Raw Materials –Raffia, Dum palm fronds, cane, local colours, coconut fiber, ropes, rubber and raft

  2. Equipment –Sharp knife, Scissors, blade, rags, nails, hammer, needles, etc.

  3. Centers of production –Calabar, Port-harcourt, Benin, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Badagry, Delta and most Northern states.

  4. Functions –Utility and Aesthetic purposes.

  1. Fabric Decoration

These include; Batik, Tye-dye, Weaving, Embroidery.

  1. Embroidery –The art of decorating cloth with sewn designs in sequence, forming a pattern, can be referred to as embroidery.

  2. Batik –This is the process in which melted candle wax is painted on a fabric to resist the dye solution. It is another resist method of dyeing.

  3. Tye-Dye –Tie-Dye is a method of fixing ink dye firmly and permanently on fabrics through tying, stitching, pruning and damping in order to prevent the absorption of dye solution when immersed in the dye bath.

  4. Weaving –This is hand or machine interlacing of fibres to make cloth (raw cotton)

  1. Raw Materials –Cotton, Local and imported dye, Raffia, Cane, Threads, Dye chemicals, candle wax.

  2. Equipment –loom, Bath tubs, iron rods, spindle, squeegee, scissors, batten, foam etc.

  3. Location –Northern Nigeria (Kano), Delta, Oyo, Kogi, Benue, Imo, Osun, Kwara.

  4. Products –Aso-Oke, Okwa-Ocha, Okene, Alaari, Etu, Akwete.

  5. Functions.

For important ceremonies as clothes and Decoration.

  1. Leather Works

The training procedure of using hides and skins to produce valuable household items and decorate items. Hides are got from bigger animals like Camel, Cows, and Elephants while skin, from smaller animals like sheep, goat, and reptiles.

  1. Raw Materials –Hides and skin (coloured and cleared leather) thread and fast dyes and stains (indigo)

  2. Equipments –knives, needles, scissors, sewing machine, tanning machine, hammer, mallet, awl-switch, and measuring device.

  3. Location –Most Northern states in Nigeria

  4. Products –Shoes, bags, hats, Drums, leather cushions, praying mat, sandals, wallet etc.

  5. Function –Decoration, storage, enhancement of culture, and social functions.

  1. Brass and Bronze Work Design

Brass is a bright yellow metal made by mixing copper and zinc while bronze is an alloy (mixture) of copper tin made available through heating.

  1. Raw Materials –Copper, Zinc and Tin

  2. Equipment –Moulds, forge, and modelling tools.

  3. Centers of Production: Bida (Kano) and Borno, Brass -Benin, Edo State –Bronze.

  4. Products –Trays, bowls, bracelets (Jewelry), statues.

  5. Functions –for decoration, to immortalize the dead, for storage, for beauty.

Factors That Influence Craft in Nigeria.

  1. Availability of Raw Materials.

The raw materials used in many countries for producing most craft works are usually obtained locally in many communities. This eases the rigor of transportation and purchase at high cost elsewhere. This accessibility and ready availability of raw materials gives way for mass production and these skills and knowledge are passed from generation to generation

  1. Religious Dictates and Social Influence

Religious traits have its own role in the choice of crafts that are in practice in any community.

E.g.: The muslims that have dominated the Northern part of Nigeria are against representation of objects (natural) objects in carved forms (3 dimension) as it is against the Islamic faith.

Whereas, the Christians which dominate the Southern part of Nigeria practices more of 3-dimensional works.

  1. Personal or Group Interest.

Personal or group interest plays a vital role in the choice and the practice of any craft in any community. Naturally gifted craftsmen could take interest in any material at anyplace and anycost to improve and discover new skills to satisfy their curiosity and make money.


This is also refered to as cave Art. The word “Pre” on its own means before or earlier while the adjective “Historic” is derived from the noun “History” which refers to past events. The early men whose main implement was stone which is called “Litho” in Greek language while “Lithic” refers to a complete particular stage of human development that is characterized by the use of stone as implement and domestic uses. This type of stone is called soap stone. It is not too hard and as such, it becomes relatively easy to carve.

Pre-historic age refers to the period when the means of recording events were not yet properly fashioned. Tis period is spread over five phases (ages)

  1. Paleolithic age (Old stone age) –(35000BC – 25000BC)

  2. Mesolithic age (Middle stone age) –(25000BC – 12000BC)

  3. Neolithic age (New stone age) –(12000BC – 4000BC)

  4. Bronze age -4000BC-2000BC

  5. Iron age -2000BC

  1. Paleolithic Age art (35000BC – 25000BC)

Pre-early men had been in existence even before cave discoveries which is the official foot note of the beginning of Arts. There were no records of how and where the early men lived before the cave discoveries.

Pre-historic art was the art of the primitive people (Hunters) living on an unproductive parasitic economic level i.e., they gathered or captured their food but never planted or produced. They were not religious but were just wanderers at the onset. They later lived in caves where their attempts at artistic creations were found. They carved stones to form hunting weapons e.g. axes, knifes, etc. they also painted on walls with the use of animal blood, decayed wood and fruits, charcoal, leaves etc. to express their feelings especially the painting of Bisons, Cattle, horses that they will want to hunt as well as figures of humans and weapons surrounding the animal.

Such cave arts were found in South of Oran in the Sahara Desert of North Africa; Jassil Adjer; Fezzan; South Africa; The Mediterranean, Altamira in Spain; Neaux (pyreness) Southern France and Lascaux (Dordogne) in France which happens to have the finest cave paintings.

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