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Storage Container (Etso)

A work made of terracotta.

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  • A work made of terracotta.


Early/mid–20th century


Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

Among the Nupe the skills for making useful, beautiful domestic pottery are passed down from mother to daughter. Specialized family ateliers were once active throughout Nupe country, particularly in the area of Bida, the region’s capital. While large pots are fired in the open, more dimunitive ones are placed in a small, roofless, earthen kiln, a technique rarely found in Africa. According to scholars, columnar containers such as this one are typical of ceramics produced in Bida’s Masagá, or glass worker’s quarter. These vessels are likely made with the direct pull method, which Nupe potters use along with the convex mold technique. Such objects appear in two distinct styles. One features a series of broad, flat rings that encircle the trunk from just below the neck to just above the bowl-like base. The other, more delicate style, seen here, features an ornate array of raised and incised marks, and often includes a pair of close-set cones at midpoint, suggestive of breasts. Columnar containers are used in Nupe homes to store clothing and dry goods. In one abandoned village, such vessels were documented half-buried in the earthen floor, possibly to help in preserving foodstuffs. The pieces are designed so that a round-bottomed pot can be stacked on top of their wide, substantial rims. This helps keep the contents clean and is also an efficient use of space in the tight quarters of a traditional Nupe house. It is for this reason that such containers are sometimes referred to as “pot stands.” Formally, this stacking also mirrors the stacked appearance of the carved wooden posts used to support the structure of Nupe homes.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Storage Container (Etso)


Nigeria (Object made in)


Made 1900–1950




62.2 × 31.1 cm (24 1/2 × 12 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Keith Achepohl

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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