By Victoria Toluwase Oladele
Ile Ife, otherwise known as Ife or Ife-Lodun, is an ancient Yoruba city located in the southwestern part of Nigeria, Osun state precisely. From history, Ile Ife is said to date back to approximately 500 BC. The Yoruba strongly believe civilization started in Ile Ife, and it was the first point of contact of the gods Olodumare sent to earth. The name “Ile Ife” literally means a place of dispersal.
The creative artwork made in Ife made it a major center of African artistic excellence. Today, many ancient Ife sculptures are associated with people who lived during the reign of Ooni Obalufon II.
The artists of Ife developed a sophisticated and highly humanistic sculptural tradition in stone, terracotta, brass, and copper, producing a unique pattern of designs that stood out across the entire continent.
Ife houses several sacred groves where many sculptural works can be found. Numerous sculptures have been uncovered in these groves. There are stone monoliths, human and animal sculptures in Ore Grove. The Iwinrin Grove is associated with terracotta heads and fragments from life-size figures.
Other ancient Ife artworks include:
Mask figure in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE, Copper. Height: 33 cm Retained in the palace since its manufacture (through the early twentieth century), where it was identified as Ooni Obalufon Alaiyemore (Obalufon II).
Sculpture of Ore (Olofefura; Olofefunra) Ore Grove, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE. Granite. Height: 80 cm
Sculpture of Ore’s servant or priest Ore Grove, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE. Granite. Height: 1.03m
The royal couple with interlocked feet and arms, Ita Yemoo site, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE. Copper alloy. Height: 286mm
Head with crown, Olokun grove site, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE, Copper alloy. Height: 343 mm
The figure of a king, Wunmonije site, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE Copper alloy. Height: 370 mm.
- The figure of a king, Ita Yemoo site. Ile-Ife, Nigeria, c. early 14th century CE Copper alloy. Height: 473 mm.
Ancient Ile Ife artworks are works with excellent creative power, stunning beauty, and rare creative accomplishment. It also speaks to the core issues of history and politics.