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Checkendon Sculpture – The Nuba Embrace

February 16, 2008

A while back Scott discovered a weird, slightly creepy and incredibly intriguing sculpture by a run down barn in the middle of a field somewhere between Henley and Reading. He took me along to see it a couple of times and we tookl a few photos. We did a bit of research (well googling) into it but couldn’t find any information on it or where it came from. I considered knocking on the door of the nearby farmhouse but chickened out. It didn’t help that the location reminded me of far too many horror films, a half collapsed barn and a yard full of rusted cars.

Scott, being more organised than myself, uploaded his photos to Google Earth and recently someone commented on one of them with an explanation of the sculpture:

“The Nuba Embrace” Several people have asked about the sculpture that has appeared by Copyhold Barn; it is called “The Nuba Embrace” and is by John Buckley. John created the sculpture on his return from a visit to the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan in 2000- 2001 where he was a guest of the Nuba Rehabilitation, Relief and Development Organisation (N.R.R.D.O.) during the time of the genocide. He witnessed first hand a mass attempt to wipe out a cultural identity through ethnic cleansing, slavery and fierce attacks on the traditional homelands. More recently there has been a fragile cease fire in the Nuba Mountains (the same agreement that is currently barely holding in Darfur) and when John returned to the region in January this year he says that, despite the suffering, he experienced a sense of resistance living in everyone he met. John finds it difficult to talk about his work (like most artists) but hopes that the sculpture asks the question “What is the future for the Nuba people?” and reminds us that in this ever-shrinking world we are never far away from what is happening in places such as the Nuba Mountains.

So, that’s good to know. We’re not sure if this is the final piece or if it’s a test piece for a final piece resting elsewhere. It seems to get cleaned up and repainted on occasion (although this may be our imaginations/the changing light), it’s not signposted in any way and unless you are looking for it you are unlikely to stumble across it.

Scott’s LJ Post

The Nuba Embrace - Photo by Scott Wylie
Photo on Scott’s website

My pics of it on Flickr (as ever, lacking any sort of editing due to lack of hours)





After far more faffing about that should be necessary my new camera (Nikon D40x) is finally with me and usable, we’re off to Worthing this afternoon so will attempt to get practice in.

UPDATE. I returned seven years later and took some more photos – Return to Checkendon

Category: Photography

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  • Wow! Thank you for the information. I must get out and see this work sometime.

  • Charles Crawcour

    I came across this exciting sculpture quite by chance on a bike ride in June 2007. As of today (10.05.08) I know it’s by John Buckley and it’s called Nuba Embrace. But why is it where it is? Maybe the sculptor lives in the area?

  • Not a clue, I’d love to know though.

  • It is where it is because the people who commissioned it decided they didn’t want it and as John had nowhere else to put it he asked a friend if he would store it on his land until he was able to find a permanent home for it. It is a talking point for many people and certainly stirred up many far-fetched theories when it first arrived. The illusion of cleaning/painting is a trick of the light. We are luck to have this sculpture long may it look down on our area of outstanding beauty.

  • Hi,
    i love your pictures of the Nuba. I have just finished John’s website. It has more pictures if you want to have a look.
    Take care
    John’s website:

  • Thanks Martine, that’s excellent.

  • Hi,

    I cycled past that a couple of days ago. It is the spookiest sight I’ve ever seen! It does look they’ve landed from another planet and will suddenly stand up and come for you. Really glad I know the history behind it though. Thanks for posting that (maybe it should have a sign next to it to help people understand what it means?).


    • I quite like the weirdness of it just sitting in a field, makes it a bit more imposing in some ways. Went to have another look at it the other day myself but couldn’t remember how to get there and had left sat-nav at home.

  • Thanks for these beautiful photos. I spent my childhood in the area but can you tell me whereabouts Copyhold Farm is exactly ?

    Thanks again

  • Hi Lilly, It’s just about the centre of this map:


  • (p.s. thanks for your comments).

  • Jan Saunders

    I heard about this sculpture some time ago, and finally managed to find it today – a really mystical experience finding these massive figures in an Oxfordshire field. I think the derelict barn, and general area really add to the weirdness of the whole thing. As soon as I arrived home, I got online to try and find out more about these wonderful figures, so it was great to find this detailed explanation. I now want to win the lottery, buy that land, tastefully restore the building and live next to those figures. Just such a feeling of wonder standing in that field gazing upon those alien figures.

  • nikond 5100…

    […]Anxious Silence » Blog Archive » Checkendon Sculpture – The Nuba Embrace[…]…

  • Megan

    I live in the local area and must admit this sculpture has always scared the crap out of me when I drive past! It’s good to finally know something about it!

    • Cheers Megan. Someone mentioned recently that it has been removed. I need to have a trek back over there and take a look.

  • Maria

    I spotted this amazing sculpture whilst out driving in the area with my sister, I asked her to pull over so I could take some photos and when I returned home I studied them in more detail by enlarging them on my phone. Looking at them gave me goosebumps, not because they are scary, even though they are a little spooky, but because of the feeling of sensuousness and great love between the two souls. I thought the sculpture was a depiction of the end of the world and these were the last two people holding on to each other because of the love that they held for each other, so how amazed was I when I goggled the sculpture and found out the real reason for it’s existence!
    The most emotional thing I have ever seen, fantastic! I will never forget it!

    • Hi Maria,

      Firstly apologies for taking so long to reply! Getting so much spam these days it’s hard to fight my way through to real comments! I agree with you, it’s much more of a moving image than one of horror. The general skeletal look to them does suggest something dark at a distance but up close they are really haunting (in a good way) and beautiful.

  • Nick

    Came across this yesterday on a bikeride. Was completely surreal considering we were just stopping for a joint in a field and came across it out of no where

  • Hey Nick,

    I’m glad it’s still there! I need to get out there again and take a few more photos.

  • Gwyn OWEN

    Just totally amazing piece of art, I work for the ambulance service and spotted the sculpture on a run, and just had to go and take a closer look later that day,

    • Hey Gwyn,

      It’s really worth making the effort to stop isn’t it! I keep hunting around to find other strange art in the wilderness but as yet have never found anything quite like it. I’m guessing given your job you spend more time on the road than me, please do let me know if you spot anything else of weird interest, I’m always up for a bit of an explore!

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Gwyn OWEN

    Just breath taking sculpture in the middle of no where,

  • Mike Collins

    My wife and I visited this sculpture today on our 48th wedding anniversary having been told of it’s position by our daughter.
    What a beautiful monument, in the close proximity to the Maharajah’s Well at Stoke Row though it is nearer Checkendon, Oxon, in the middle of a field. The derelict barn also sets the mood.
    A super experience. 5/4/16.

    • Thanks for you comment Mike!

      Whenever I go to take a look at the sculpture (which isn’t often enough) I try and stop by the well on the way back through (I’m based in Maidenhead and so Stoke Row is sort of on the way back. I quite like the well but find it a bit of a let down after the Nuba Embrace, I also cannot quite seem to get any decent photos of the well. 😉

  • Pat Patrick

    I came across this artwork on Friday 15th April 2016 whilst roaming around before a photo shoot in Mapledurham. It certainly caught my attention & am glad to know more about it,

    • Thanks for the comment Pat! I hope this blog has been a little bit helpful in finding out more 🙂

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I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).

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