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Water or Palm Wine Container (Iti or Udu)

A work made of terracotta.

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  • A work made of terracotta.


Mid–20th century


Ishiagu, Nigeria
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

Igbo pottery has been admired for its inventive variety of forms and embellishments. Women build vessels using the coiled method and ornament them with an assortment of rouletting and combing, freehand incising, burnishing, and raised sculptural elements. As throughout much of Africa, they are then allowed to dry and are fired quickly and efficiently in an open bonfire. The origins of modern Igbo ceramics can be traced back to the accomplished vessels found at the tenth-century site of Igbo-Ukwu, which are characterized by deeply incised linear patterns and arching, buttresslike handles that wed neck or rim to body. Contemporary examples include vestiges of these elements, but they also demonstrate the presence of innovation and change over time, including the addition of roulette patterning, a practice not found at Igbo-Ukwu.
Bottles for water or palm wine like this one are a specialty of potters in the towns of Inyi and Ishiagu, which have thrived for generations as centers of full-time ceramic production. Wares imported from the Hausa in the nineteenth century are believed to have originally inspired such objects, colloquially called “coolers,” which are now made more widely. This vessel is gracefully proportioned, with a round base, looping handles, a long, tapering neck, and flared lip. Both the bottle’s overall shape and the tightly combed lines, which recall Igbo-Ukwu potter and create a textured panel around the shoulder, suggest that it comes from Ishiagu.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Water or Palm Wine Container (Iti or Udu)


Nigeria (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1925–1975




38.1 × 40.6 cm (15 × 11 3/4 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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