"chess set", "chess sets", "chess pieces", "chess museum", "schaak"

Nigeria  (Africa)

Nigeria (Benin Plain/III 2021). This cutting art from thornwood has been started in 1930 in Owo, Nigeria, by Justus Dojomo Akeredolu, craft teacher at a public school. J. Dojomo Akeredolu was born in Owo, Nigeria in 1915. Having studied at the Owo Government School, he later established a sculpture studio, only to return to the school later to teach the art of sculpting. He specialised in tree thorn carving, but also worked in mahogany, ebony and iroko. He learned his pupils the cutting art from the thorns of the silk cotton tree, a wood which is easy to cut and suitable for small details. Today it is a narrative cutting art of detail and ability, showing daily performances of life. The thorns have shades of golden yellow to chocolate brown and skilled cutters use that to create special effects. I have never seen thornwood sets painted. These sets are made by the Yoruba for the tourist market, I believe. This pattern and monoblock type of set is quite rare.

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Note that King and Queen are switched in the picture

  • Nigeria, after J. Dojomo Akeredolu
  • ca. 1980
  • Thornwood K 5.4; p 3.0-3.3
  • Box 10.5×20.0×9.6
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  • Nigeria, Lagos, after J. Dojomo Akeredolu
  • 1986
  • Thornwood K 5.9; p 3.7

Plain/III 2021 mentions Benin, because of the Oba, but 2nd set was bought in Lagos. In the original design represents white the Yoruba and black the Hausa. The white King is an Oba, with veiled dressing. The Oba of Benin is the traditional ruler and the custodian of the culture of the Edo people and all Edoid people. Also the black King, an emir, has a veiled dressing. In the better carved 1st set is the distinction between the two parties gone. For a long time I was mislead by the size of the pieces and switched King and Queen. The pictures still reflect that. The article in CCI Magazine Vol XXXIV No.1 March 2024 convinced me that I was wrong. Note that the Queen wears coral beads and has her hair in the unique style known as Eto-Okuku. The box of that set has an Oba in relief outstretched on the cover. The lesser carved 2nd set does have different sides, but I cannot tell what they represent. Maybe black Queen does have an Eto-Okuku hairstyle?

Nigeria. These are rather common sets made of thornwood. In this kind of sets are the pieces made in parts that are glued together, creating more colourful pieces. They are not painted or so.

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  • Nigeria, by Yoruba
  • 1960s-1980s
  • Thornwood K 8.0; p 5.2
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  • Nigeria, by Yoruba
  • Late 20th century
  • Thornwood K 9.6; p 5.6
  • Board 31.9×31.1