Nuer toy figure

Nuer toy figure
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Made by boys.
Date Made:
By 1936
Modelled , Dried , Impressed , Decorated
Max L = 71.1 mm, W between ears = 17.7, across arms 37.7, at feet = 28.1 mm; th at torso = 22.5 mm, at breasts = 32.8 mm [RTS 28/9/2004].
55.4 g
Other Owners:
This object was probably collected in 1935 or 1936, when Evans-Pritchard held a research fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust (see E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940, The Nuer) [RTS 28/9/2004].
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Donated 1936
Collected Date:
1935 - 1936
Small toy figure, hand modelled out of well levigated grayish brown clay mixed with micaceous inclusions (Pantone 7531C), and sun dried. This is in the form of a naked female figure, standing facing forward, with her hands by her sides. It consists of a roughly shaped head with domed top and simple ears and nose, pulled out from the surface; eyes and nostrils are indicated by circular depressions, made by impressing a twig or straw into the surface. Below this, a thick neck flares out to join a cylindrical torso with stubby legs flaring out to broad, flat-based feet, poorly delineated. Two tapering arms have been applied to either side of the body, with two prominent conical breasts applied to its front. At the back, a convex bottom has been modelled, well down the body. Possible cicatrisation marks have been added on the front as impressed dots over the torso below the breasts, in a series of horizontal and oblique rows; an incision marks the genitals at the front, and a depression marks the anus at the back. The figure is intact, and complete except for a possible broken area at the end of the figure's left hand. It has a weight of 55.4 grams, is 71.1 mm tall, and measures 17.7 mm wide between the ears, 37.7 mm wide across the arms, and 28.1 mm wide across the feet, with a thickness of 22.5 mm at the torso, and 32.8 mm at the breasts.

This object was collected by Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard when he held a research fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust (see E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940,
The Nuer ), either during May to July 1935, when he worked amongst the Nuer Lou and Eastern Jikany, or from October to November 1936, when he was working amongst the Karlual section of the Nuer Leek, in Western Nuerland (pers. comm. Chris Morton 2004).

These figures were made by boys, and played with by children of both sexes. Evans-Pritchard says of the Nuer that: “The games of rather older children of both sexes centre round cattle. They build byres of sand in camps and of moistened ashes or mud in villages, and fill the toy kraals with fine mud cows and oxen ... with which they play at herding and marriage” (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940,
The Nuer, p. 38). These types of figures are differentiated to show the sex of the animal, and often include details such as hide markings and decorative ornaments (see 1936.10.85-86). They are not confined to cattle, but include wild animals, such as giraffes (1936.10.71), lions (1937.34.73, 1937.34.78), buffalo (1937.34.77), and hedgehogs (1937.34.70), as well as people (1936.10.93, 1937.34.74-75). This particular example appears to have been made from similar clay to 1936.10.92.

For clay figures made by the Dinka, see S.L. Cummins 1904, "Sub-tribes of the Bahr-el-Ghazal Dinkas",
JRAI 34, pp 160-161, and for a photograph of Shilluk children playing with a large group of such figures, see H.A. Bernatzik, 1929, Zwischen Weissem Nil und Belgisch-Kongo, fig. 137.

Rachael Sparks 18/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 410] - 1936 [insert] 10 [end insert] E. EVANS-PRITCHARD, M.A., Exeter College, Oxford. - Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, while travelling with a Grant from the Rockefeller Leverhulme Trustees, viz: [p. 418] [insert] 92-93 [end insert] - [One of] 2 similar figures [of clay], of a man & a woman, same data [ ANUAK . NUER].

Card Catalogue Entry [tribes] - EASTERN SUDAN, NUER. 2 clay figures, of a man and a woman. These figures are made by boys, and used as toys by boys and girls. Coll. by donor. d.d. E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936 [RTS 23/7/2004].

Written on object -
Doll. ANUAK, E. SUDAN. d.d. E. Evans Pritchard 1936 [his must have been marked before the accession book entry was corrected from Anuak to Nuer, RTS 28/9/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
Help | About | Bibliography