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Dynasty and Divinity Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria


Henry John Drewal Enid Schildkrout

An exhibition co-organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, and the Fundacion Marcelino Botin, Santander, Spain, in collaboration with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria MUSELIITI FOR RFRICRO RRT


Marcelino Botin


The works of art in the exhibition have been generously lent by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria.

Dynasty and Divinity: Ile Art in Ancient Nigeria is a traveling exhibition co-organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, and the Fundacion Marcelino Bolin, Santander, Spain, in collaboration with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria. Participating European venues: Fundacion Marcelino Botin, Santander, Spain Real Academia de BeIlas Artes de San Fernando, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid British Museum, London Participating North American venues as of August 2009: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond Indianapolis Museum of Art Museum for African Art, New York The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The exhibition and catalogue have been supported. in part. by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Any views,findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria is published with the assistance of


The Getty Foundation

Catalogue Editor: Stephen Robert Frankel Project Manager: Donna Ghelerter Design: Florio Design, New York Printed and bound in China by Global PSI) Copyright 2009 (0. Museum for African Art, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the Museum for African Art, 36-01 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101 www.africanart.org All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: 2009925229 Paper bound ISBN (English edition): 978-0-945802-53-2 Cloth bound ISBN (English edition): 978.0-945802-54-9 Paper bound ISBN (Spanish edition): 978-84-96655-46-1 Dinastia y Divinidad: Arte lfe en la Antigua Nigeria Paper bound ISBN (British Museum edition): 978-0-7141-2595-4 Kingdom ofIfe: Sculpturesfrom West Africa Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria is distributed by: University of Washington Press P.O. Box 50096 Seattle, WA 98145-5096 www.washington.edutuwpress


Sponsor's Foreword




Elsie McCabe Thompson Emilio Botin



Joseph Eboreime

Ife Art in West Africa: An Introduction to the Exhibition


Enid Schildkrout

The Splendor of Ancient He: Art in an Early West African State


Henry John Drewal








Photo Credits


Board and Staff


Sponsor's Foreword Santander is delighted to support the luseum for African Art in bringing to the United States for the first time ever a truly remarkable exhibition ofsculptures, from the ancient Yoruba kingdom of Ife in West Africa. The history and artistic brilliance of these important cultural works is indication enough of their significance. The historical and cultural context provided by the exhibition curators is both inspiring and thought provoking, providing as it does a further reappraisal of this important kingdom and period in African history. Santander's global reach, in over forty countries, and our commitment to learning through an extensive partnership program with universities around the world, makes our involvement in this exhibition especially relevant. We are particularly pleased to be supporting it in New York, where it can be seen by visitors from around the world. Santander is also delighted to be associated with the Museum for African Art, a world-class institution that shares our understanding of the benefits of cross-cultural exchange and learning. Antonio Escamez Chairman Fundaci6n Banco Santander



Foreword It is a great honor to be the co-organizer, with the Fundacion IvIarcelino Botin and the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments,of Dynasty and Divinity: Ile Art in Ancient Nigeria. Over the twenty-five years that the Museum for African Art has been in existence, it has presented many exhibitions of the finest examples of African art from all over the continent. In 1989, we were fortunate to be able to bring some of the greatest works of Nigerian art to the United States and Europe for the exhibition Yoruba: Nine Centuries ofAfrican Art and nought. That exhibition included spectacular examples of metal and terra-cotta works of art from Ife, but its scope was far broader than the present project. Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria offers an in-depth look at this extraordinary corpus of ancient art from a single region, highlighting the majesty of Ife's early kingdom and the technical and artistic achievements of its artists. Indeed, when Europeans first encountered these objects in the early twentieth century, they assumed that the sculptures came from Greece and could not have been made by Africans. We now know that these astonishing works ofart were indeed made in lie, most ofthem between the twelfth and the fifteenth century. What is equally fascinating is that this art continues to relate to the lives of people in Nigeria today, not just as relics from the past, but as an ongoing part of living traditions. There are no contemporaneous written records about life in Ile during the period when these works were made,and as this book makes clear, the archaeology does not provide much explanatory context because of where the objects have been found (for example, at sites that have been in use or disturbed since that period, or under inhabited buildings, or by chance at the sites of construction projects). Nevertheless, interpretations of this art, and in some cases the objects themselves, have been integrated by the inhabitants of the modern city of Ife into their history and into their religious sites and practices. While the collections of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments are of vital importance to Nigeria and to the world, the true meaning of the objects comes from the people of Ife and from Yoruba people around the world who celebrate these remarkable works as their heritage. The Museum for African Art could not have attempted and executed this complex project without our co-organizing partner, the Fundacitin Marcelino Botin, Santander, and especially Paloma Botin, a member of the Fundacion's board. Director-General Joseph Eboreime, head of the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments,and Nath Mayo Adediran, director of museums, were extraordinarily helpful throughout, mobilizing their staffs in Abuja and at participating Nigerian museums to bring the exhibition to fruition. In addition, we are grateful to Robin Sanders, the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, who assisted us at key moments,and to the British Museum, who, with a grant from the Ford Foundation, offered assistance in packing and conserving objects. We must especially acknowledge the efforts and support offered by the Ministry of Culture of Spain for coordinating the arrival of works in Spain and helping with the organization of the European tour. Support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Getty Foundation (for the exhibition catalogue), was crucial to making this exhibition and publication possible. The entire project could not have been accomplished without the tireless efforts of Enid Schildkrout, chief curator and director of exhibitions and publications at the Museum for African Art; and she was aided enormously in writing the catalogue and organizing the objects for display in the exhibition by Henry John Drewal, professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was a pleasure to work with and a font of wisdom about Yoruba culture and lie art. They, in turn, gratefully thank the many other people and institutions mentioned in their acknowledgments at the end of this volume. Elsie McCabe Thompson President Museum for African Art, New York



Foreword The FundaciOn Marcelino Botin and the Museum for African Art present the exhibition Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, which has gathered together a representative selection of the artistic legacy of the city-state of Ife-109 sculptures, many of which have never before been seen outside Nigeria. Enid Schildkrout, the curator of the exhibition, has been the guiding force of this project. I would like to extend our sincere appreciation for the magnificent work done in the restoration and conservation of these objects by Spain's Ministry of Culture—through 1PCE,Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de Espana (the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute), in Madrid—and by the British Museum in London. We are also extremely grateful for the exceptional contribution by the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments,and for the efforts of all our colleagues at the participating institutions in Nigeria, New York, London, Virginia, Indianapolis, Vienna,and Santander, who, under the leadership of my daughter Paloma, have made possible this extraordinary exhibition. On behalf of the Fundacion Marcelino Botin, I express deep satisfaction in contributing to increasing the public's awareness of the traditions, culture, and art of the city of lie. Emilio Botin President Fundacion Marcelino Botin



Preface It is a great honor to see the realization of the exhibition and catalogue of Dynasty and Divinity: Ile Art in Ancient Nigeria. The Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments is proud to share its heritage with the Nigerian people and with others outside the country and the African continent. While some of these great treasures have traveled beyond our borders before, there has never been an exhibition devoted to exploring the great variety of lie art. This exhibition brings together, for the first time, a range of extraordinary works of art in stone, terra-cotta, and metal that were created in Nigeria over the past millennium. It shows how the idea ofdivine rulership inspired artists in Nigeria, as early as the ninth century, to create some of the most moving and technically sophisticated works in the history of world art and—as the terra-cotta works so vividly show—how the artists were concerned with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. While the art of this ancient city-state unquestionably lies at the foundation of Yoruba culture, it is also our national heritage. lie was,and still is, a cosmopolitan city, drawing craftsmen, artists, and traders from many corners of the region. The influence of this art then spread well beyond its borders, and it is still important to all of us in Nigeria today. The mandate of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is to protect, preserve, and present the artistic heritage of Nigeria's many cultural groups. The experience of preparing this exhibition has been enriching and instructive; we hope that it will be followed by many other exhibitions that draw on our extensive collections. Ongoing scholarship, by Nigerians and others throughout the world, enlarges our understanding of Ife art. Nigeria's cultural heritage, and especially the art of the distant past, is a wonderful source of inspiration for our many artists and educators. We hope that this book, and the exhibition on which it is based, will reach the general public in Nigeria, the many Nigerians who live beyond our borders, and the international audiences who will be able to see it in Europe and the United States. I would like to thank my colleagues in Nigeria, especially Mr. Nath Mayo Adediran, Mrs. Ronke Ashaye, Mrs. Edith Ekunke, Mr. Collins Onousa,and Mr. Adesina, among others, who worked so hard to see this project to completion. Our collaboration with the Fundacian Nlarcelino Botin and the Museum for African Art has been a model of international cooperation. Our colleagues at the British Museum have also been extremely helpful in making many arrangements to facilitate the project. We thank everyone involved, and proudly present this book for current readers and future generations. Dr. Joseph Eboreime Director-General National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria June 2009



Ife Art in West Africa An Introduction to the Exhibition

Enid Schildkrout


was where the world began. The kings, queens,

and deities whose stories animate Yoruba history and art all trace their origins to this ancient center of art and commerce,today called Ife, which is now a bustling metropolis of about 600,000 people. lb many Yoruba people and their descendants, who number more than 35 million and live in Nigeria, other areas of West Africa, and throughout the Western world, Ife is associated with the ancestors, with the first dynasties and deities, and with the invention of technology and art. As the ancestral home ofsome sixteen legendary kingdoms that flourished starting in about 1100-1200 C.E., Ife retains a spiritual primacy for Yoruba-speaking people in Nigeria and beyond. While Yoruba-speaking people today may be devout Christians or Muslims,they still tell or talk about—and many hold sacred—the stories, songs, works of art, and shrines that allude to the character and activities of the deified ancestors. This is how names have been given to works of art associating them with particular rulers who were deified after their earthly existence. The art of ancient Ife, though in many ways shrouded in mystery, is part of this cultural tradition; and it is mostly with reference to its art, rather than to written histories or comprehensive archaeology, that we are able to interpret Ile-Ife.' Although archaeologists have not studied the early cultures of West Africa nearly enough, it is clear that there are stylistic links between Ife and the ceramic and metal arts from other parts of Nigeria, especially Owo (fourteenth and fifteenth centuries) and Benin (fifteenth century to the present); see the map ofsouthwestern Nigeria (fig. 5). And there are also possible, though as yet undocumented, connections to the other great ancient cultures of West Africa, all of which were most certainly involved in trade along the mighty Niger River and its tributaries: Djenne(Jenne-Jeno) in what is now Mali and the Nok culture in what is now Nigeria, both of which began before the first millennium C.E., and Igbo-Ukwu in the ninth and tenth centuries C.E. Were these linked trading centers? Did civil strife, wars and epidemics, or perhaps economic opportunities cause blacksmiths, weavers, masons,and potters to move from one trading center to the next? There are so many unanswered questions concerning the dawn of West Africa's great artistic traditions that we can only hope that, sometime in the near



future, serious research and international efforts to conserve this heritage will help us answer them. This exhibition, Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, presents a major part of the extraordinary corpus of ancient lie art, totaling hundreds of objects in terracotta, stone, and metal, and dating from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries. All the objects in the traveling exhibition come from the collection of the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments. It is fortunate that the majority of extant Ife objects are still housed in the Nigerian National Museums in Lagos and Ife; however, some pieces found early in the twentieth century were taken out of Nigeria before any antiquities laws were in place, and more have since disappeared in violation of laws put in place starting in the 1940s(and later reinforced by the UNESCO Convention of 1970).2 A number of very fine terra-cotta and metal objects are known to have been stolen from Nigerian museums; others, whether casually found or illegally excavated, were never accessioned by the museum. Several objects in the exhibition were stolen and then returned. In organizing this exhibition, we are hopeful that it will encourage the protection of cultural property and further research on this great civilization, and that it will stimulate more exhibitions in Africa, Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world to acquaint a broader public with this astonishing art and the people who created it. The beauty and power of this art has brought glory to the descendants of all Yoruba-speaking peoples, and indeed to all of humanity.

Fig. I The present ruler(Ooni)of Ile, His Royal Majesty Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II. lie, Nigeria, 2008

Today, the rulers, divinities, deified ancestors, and even some of the animals depicted in Ife art are still actively celebrated among Yoruba-speaking people in modern Nigeria and in the Yoruba diaspora stretching from West Africa to Bahia, London, Los Angeles and many places in between. From the forced migrations over several centuries of the transatlantic slave trade to the global travels of Yoruba people today, the legacy of ancient lie has spread throughout the world. The cultural and artistic trajectory from Ile-Ife to the present is in some ways a continuous one, although, due to a long series of wars and disruptions and many economic, political, and social changes, the story is sometimes difficult to follow. The present ruler, or Ooni,of lie, His Royal Majesty Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, (fig. 1) is the highest-ranking traditional ruler of the Yoruba people and the incumbent of one of the oldest extant monarchies in the world. He plays an important role in ceremonial life and is a highly respected dignitary in Nigeria and beyond. Like his forebears, when he sits in state he wears a beaded crown and holds a royal scepter and whisk. Much of his regalia is similar to that worn by the two copper-alloy figures of an Ooni in the exhibition (cat. nos. 3 and 38)—one a full standing figure, the other a half-figure—both more than seven hundred years old! In Ife today, people worship at shrines dedicated to the same deities that are referred to in the ancient city-state's art: Obatala, the original divinity and molder of humans; Olokun, the goddess of the seas; Ogun, the god of iron, war, and technology; and Oduduwa,the first ruler of Ife, who passed the crown on to his (or her)descendants—a difference of gender that depends on the religious and/ or dynasty affiliation of the descendant. At festivals honoring past rulers, who are also, by definition, deities, participants wear insignia and decorate their bodies in ways that resemble numerous details on Ife's ancient art. The city of Ife today is densely populated. Its homes,shrines, and palaces have been rebuilt many times,sometimes at the same spot,sometimes in new places. Many of



Fig. 2 In 1938,two feet below the ground of the Wunt11011ije Compound (near the Palace of the Ooni of Ife), a cache of bronze heads was uncovered while a foundation for a house was being dug. Shown here are some of the heads unpacked at the British Museum, where the Ooni sent them in 1948.

the sites where these works of art were found, often by chance, have been continuously inhabited for centuries, making it difficult to determine their original contexts. In 1938, in the course of digging the foundations for a house at a spot that was probably once part of lie's royal palace, workers discovered a group of remarkably naturalistic copperalloy heads, now sometimes called the Wunmonije heads (fig. 2 and cat. nos. 1,42-49), as well as the half-figure of a king mentioned above (cat. no. 38), named after the Wunmonije Compound site where they were found. In 1957, at a site in Ife called Ita Yemoo,a workman digging the foundation of an office building struck a metal object that turned out to be the magnificent copper-alloy couple now kept on display in the National Museum in Ife (fig. 3). This is one object that the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments was reluctant to lend to the exhibition, because, of all the Ife objects, it is the one that is most visited in the Ife museum.The full standing figure of an Ooni mentioned above (cat. no. 3)and several scepters with gagged human heads (cat. nos.84,88, and 89)are also from the Ita Yemoo site. Over the years, many more objects have come to light from various sites in Ife, including glass beads, crucibles, and terra-cotta, stone, and metal sculptures. Although, beginning in the 1950s, there have been important excavations in Ife by Ekpo Eyo, Peter Garlake, and Frank Willett, among others,4 many objects have been found entirely serendipitously. Even the serious excavations have been hampered by the fact that the sites have been continuously occupied, thus making the usual technique ofstudying archaeological sites according to strata of occupation inapplicable: because the older



layers have been mixed up with debris from later settlements, clear contexts and sequences are difficult to decipher. A few Ife objects had been brought to Europe before 1910, and were known to researchers at the British Museum. However,the most famous find in the early twentieth century was made that year by the German explorer Leo Frobenius. In a three-week visit and a return trip under police auspices, he collected information and objects,some of which are still in museums in Europe. Frobenius, like many others of his day, could not imagine that such works were of African origin and theorized that this great art was evidence of the lost Atlantis of the Greeks and that the Yoruba deity Olokun was the same god as the Greek Poseidon.' The people of Ife, including its rulers and priests, did know about the existence of this art, long before Europeans started taking note of it. Some objects were found inadvertently and were brought into the Ooni's Palace for safekeeping,6 but others were actively preserved in the palace and in shrines dedicated to different deities throughout the region. In some cases, although the sculptures may have been casually found, they were subsequently incorporated into new ritual contexts. Sites such as the Ore Grove, filled with stone and iron sculptures, or the Iwinrin Grove, where a substantial number of terra-cotta heads were found, are still places of active ceremonial life, where altars include old objects as well as newer ones. Several important sculptures, including the terra-cotta head said to represent the court servant Lajuwa (cat. no. 39), and the most famous object of all, the copper mask thought to represent the ruler Obalufon II (cat. no. 37), are said to have been kept in the palace since the time they were made. The exhibition Dynasty and Divinity: lie Art in Ancient Nigeria includes more than one hundred exceptional objects in metal,stone, and terra-cotta. Although some of the beautiful copper-alloy heads and figures in this exhibition have previously traveled outside Nigeria, many of the stone sculptures and the small terra-cotta objects,some of which show disease and deformity, have never been displayed outside that country. These diverse images show not only the serenity and self-assurance readily associated with the idea of dynasty but also suggestions of violence and misfortune that may also have been characteristic of life in Ife. As Peter Garlake, who excavated the Obalara Land site, has written,"the two distinct clusters ofsculptures emphasize ... the polarity in Ife art between serenity and violence,

Fig. 3 Pair offigures, Ita Yemoo, Nigeria, 14th-early 15th century CF.,copper alloy and pigment. H:71 / 2 in. (19 cm)/ National Museum,Ile-Ife, Nigeria In 1957, this extraordinary copper-alloy sculpture of a couple was found by workmen beside the road to Ilesa, a few miles northeast of Ife. The face of the male figure was destroyed.'The casting, scarcely I/16 inch thick in some places, appears to portray an Ooni and his queen. They wear and hold the symbols of their authority (ase). The crown and hair of the queen were painted black. The large beads on the king's crown,the beads around their necks, and their wrappers were painted red. The forefingers of his hands are hooked together in what appears to be a ritual gesture. Her arm is linked through his, and his leg encircles her leg. The linking of male and female in Yoruba art expresses the cultural theme of dependence of the sexes upon one another for the actualization of their essential natures(iwa).

calm and terror, health and sickness." Moreover, we cannot forget the obverse of the tranquility we all admire. Artists just as competent and expressive showed with equally impressive insight and conviction—and great intensity—the violence, horrors, agonies, and sufferings of another part of society. Mortality is set against immortality, pain against serenity, restraint against abandon, the victim against authority, the sacrificial against the divine. In comparison, the middle ground of ordinary life was ignored.' To understand these contrasting forces, the corpus of ancient Ife art must be placed in the context of Yoruba culture—its history, mythology, beliefs and ritual practices, and traditions of rulership. In this light, the prevalence of these extraordinary depictions of illness and sacrifice are not straightforward representations of reality, but rather references to the centrality of one of the founding heroes, Obatala, in Ife myths and histories. Obatala is regarded as having had an important role in shaping human form, and abnormalities may be not simply signs of sin or illness, but rather marks of divinity Continued on page 10




opposite: 1 Head with crown Wunmonije Compound,Ife 14th-early 15th century CE. Copper alloy H:9% in.(24 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 79.R.11

Discovered in lie in 1938, this is one of three known copper-alloy heads, smaller than life-size, that bear a crown. The top of the crest is broken off, but the concentric circles are similar to the crown on the standing king figure (cat. no. 3)and may be an emblem of a specific ruling dynasty lhe beads that surround the crown bear traces of red paint. An iron nail was found in the neck, suggesting that the head was attached to a base or ring. This head was purchased by anthropologist William Bascom in 1938, but was later returned to Nigeria.

2 Head Ita Yemoo,lie 12th-I3th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:9/ 1 4 in.(23 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,79.R.7 The tiered headdress on this elaborate terra-cotta head from lie suggests that the woman portrayed here was a queen. The headdress represented seems to be made of beads and feathers. Traces of red and white paint survive on the crown,and there is red paint on the necklaces, lips, ear, and forehead. A crest has broken offfrom the crown,but a ring of beads remains visible on the forehead. The queen's face is smooth, but her lips are striated. The head was probably attached to a torso or a full figure, although no full terra-cotta figures from lie have been found.


opposite: 3 Figure ofa king Ita Yemoo,lie Late 13th-early 15th century(1365Âą70 CE.) Copper alloy H: 19% in.(49 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,79.R.12

The only complete full figure known to have survived from lie, this copper-alloy sculpture represents the ruler (Ooni)of Ife, wearing regalia that might have been worn during a coronation. The forest-buffalo horn in his left hand would have contained powerful medicines (ase). Both the horn and the staff in his right hand are symbols of his authority, used only in the brief period between the Ooni's accession and coronation. He has bow-shaped emblems on his chest similar to those on the copper-alloy half-figure of a king (cat. no. 38)and on the terra-cotta torso found at the lwinrin Grove (cat. no. 4). His wrapper, with a woven or embroidered edge and held by a knotted sash tied over the left hip, is an example of the elaborate textiles that Ile rulers wore in the fourteenth century,like the seated male figure at Tada (cat. no. 36). Traces of red and black paint are found on the beads.

4 Male torso Iwinrin Grove, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: II% in.(29.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria, 49.1.52 Wearing similar regalia to that visible on the standing copper-alloy king figure (cat. no. 3), this terra-cotta torso ofa man probably represents an lie ruler(Ooni). He is shown with a beaded collar from which hang a pair of bows like those representing the badge of office worn by the copper-alloy king figure. He has faint striations on his abdomen,and his plumpness may be a sign of well-being.


Continued from page 5

and the special role that extraordinary people, and animals, played in a world guided by otherworldly forces.9 Similarly, Ife rulers are empowered in life by the deities, and some have been deified themselves after death. It would be more in keeping with Yoruba belief to say that they do not die, but "disappear and descend into the earth" and are often turned into stone° Thus, it is impossible to talk about dynasty in ancient Ife or in Yoruba culture in general without talking about divinity. Politics and religion, secular and sacred, are not distinct or separate; they are interwoven, and each realm is incomprehensible without the other. Concepts such as beauty, power, infirmity, and even life and death partake of both. The human body, depicted so often in Ife art, and especially the head, is endowed with properties that can only be understood as deriving from Ife's deities. These lifelike human representations are not simply portraits but rather expressions of the divinity inherent in living things, especially human beings. As Babatunde Lawal recounts, the creativity deity Obatala molded the archetypal human image (ere eniyan) from divine clay.... Ogun,the deity (orisa) associated with iron tools and weapons, put the finishing touches to the form, clarifying and delineating the principal features, especially the face. The image (ere) turned into a living human (eniyan) after receiving from the Supreme Being [Oludumarel the divine breath or soul(emi)—a form of ase (the enabling power). Since then,every image thus produced has been placed inside the womb of a pregnant woman and left to develop from an embryonic form into a normal baby. Hence the prayer for an expectant mother:"Ki Orisa ya ona ire ko ni"("May the Orisa [Obatala] fashion for us a good work of art")." Lawal, citing Idowu,12 adds that this prayer is necessary because Obatala is sometimes characterized as a habitual drinker who, when drunk,creates albinos, hunchbacks, cripples, and other disfigured persons." HIGHLIGHTS OF THE EXHIBITION At the entry of the exhibition Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, is a copperalloy sculpture of a head from the Wunmonije Compound (cat. no. 1)." It is one of three known heads with crowns, all of them about a third smaller than life-size.(A similar head is in the British Museum,fig. 4.) We do not know what this head was used for, who it represents, or even if it represents a male or female, but we can assume from the crown and the depiction of beads that it represents a person of importance, probably a ruler. One explanation for why the heads with crowns are smaller than those without opposite: Fig. 4 Crowned head, Wunmonije Compound,Ife, Nigeria. 12th-14th century C.F.., copper alloy. H: 133 / 4 in.(35 cm)/ British Museum, Af1939,34.1 The most complete of the three known crowned heads is this copper-alloy head with a crown made of beads in different shapes, a tassel, and a row of feathers. The latter probably represent red parrot feathers, which are important in Yoruba rituals to this day. The beads and the crest with seven concentric rings are painted black and red.lhe face is finely striated and has two lines of holes above the upper lip and between the ears and the neck and jaw. A nail once attached the head to something else, probably a base or a metal ring.

crowns may offer a clue to their actual use. The sculptures may have served as mounts for actual regalia, in or between ceremonies. They may have been memorials, perhaps used in funerary rites, including second burials,ic where they represented and honored deceased rulers; or they may have played a role during investitures. When the actual ruler was not wearing the crown, it may have been kept on the sculpture. The face of this head from Wunmonije and those ofsome of the other copper-alloy heads, like many of the terra-cotta ones(such as cat. nos. 51 and 52), are incised with fine parallel striations, usually interpreted as representations of scarification marks (see also the copper-alloy sculptures, cat. nos. 38,44,45, and 47). Other heads have faces that are smooth, without such striations, in terra-cotta (cat. nos. 2 and 53)and in copper alloy (see cat. nos. 42,43,46,48,and 49). Still others have faces with thick,



raised striations (cat. no. 55 and fig. 26), extrusions that seem to represent deliberately inflicted welts, while other lines might represent body paint.'6 Facial and body scarification, as well as face painting in certain ritual contexts, was common in many parts of Nigeria until the early twentieth century, and it still exists in a few places today. However, there is no evidence of what kinds of body marks were in fashion when these objects were made,or which individuals would have had them. We can surmise that they may have been markers of identity, signifying a place of origin, status, or a membership in a certain organization. Based on scarification patterns known in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,some of the marks on Ile heads—for example, the dots, circles, and cat-whisker patterns (see cat. nos. 59-61)—have been associated with people who lived in the Nupe area to the north of Ife; and the fine vertical striations have been associated with certain marks used by the Igbo to the east, although the Igbo marks, as well as those on Igbo-Ukwu sculptures from the ninth to tenth century (see cat. nos. 100 and 101), are diagonal rather than vertical. Nevertheless, these marks cannot be used to identify with any certainty particular groups of people who lived in Ife at the time the sculptures were made. The fine striations on the metal and terra-cotta faces may not depict scarifications at all. Some writers have suggested that they may represent the beaded veils that Yoruba rulers wore to conceal their faces, although no lie works show attachments for headgear with veils or face coverings. Nevertheless, a small black bead embedded in a hole in one of the faces has lent some credence to the veil interpretation. Yet another possibility is that the fine vertical lines might be an aesthetic device to provide texture and enhance the visual appeal of the object,r in much the same way that some of the animal representations have a stylized herringbone pattern that may or may not represent skin or fur (see cat. no. 40). Also in the introductory section of the exhibition is one of the most elaborate Ife terra-cotta heads known (cat. no. 2). It portrays a woman, most likely a queen, about three-quarters life-size, with an expressive face and no striations except on her lower lip. She wears a tiered headdress or crown, which may have indicated her dynastic affiliation. A disklike emblem at the front of the crown is broken off, but parts of it remain on her forehead. Traces of red and white paint survive on the crown, and red paint is visible on the lips, ear, forehead, and beaded necklace. The necklace consists of both round and tubular beads, suggesting the variety of beads that were used in royal regalia. Two elaborately decorated torsos, one in terra-cotta and one in copper alloy, provide further evidence of the importance of regalia in indicating rank in early Ife. The copperalloy figure of the standing king mentioned above (cat. no. 3), found at the site of ha Yemoo,is the only complete full-figure metal sculpture from Ife of that era known to have survived. The elaborate beadwork and crown suggest that this is a depiction of the Ooni during his coronation. He wears a wrapper, with a hem or a woven or embroidered edge, held by a sash tied over his left hip. According to the late Ooni of Ife, H.H. Sir Adesoi Aderemi,the forest-buffalo horn in his left hand would have contained a powerful medicine (ase), a curse of which is certain to be fatal. The horn and the staff in his right hand, both symbols of the Ooni's authority, are of a type used only between his accession and coronation. The herringbone-patterned bow-shaped emblems on his chest, each opposite:

composed of a ring of beads and a disk with feathers projecting from it, are similar

Fig. 5 Map ofsouthwestern Nigeria

to badges of office worn by certain chiefs today, though not by the Ooni,and are also Continued on page 22




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5 Head ofa ram Ile Oyemoo,Ife 12th-I5th century C.E. Granite gneiss 6%* in.(17.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria. 63.1.12 Domesticated animals such as sheep and goats were often used in sacrifices, while stone and terra-cotta representations of them were left on altars. This ram's head probably represents a sacrificial animal.

6 Head ofa ram Aiyetoro, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Biotite gneiss 1.: 61 / 4 in.(15.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.63 A ram's head, portraying an offering, was found in the twentieth century when a grave was being dug in lie.

7 Offering box Ore Grove, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Granite H: 103 / 4 in.(27.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,63.1.11 A figure of a crocodile appears on each side of this stone box. It was found in front of the large stone figure known as Idena, the "gate keeper"(cat. no. 8). It was probably a receptacle for offerings, perhaps of kola nuts, but other interpretations have also been suggested. One Ile legend proposes that before Oduduwa founded the earth, when the world was all water, this object was the boat used by Ore,the hunter deity.


8 Figure ofIdena Ore Grove, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Biotite gneiss and iron nails H:40% in.(103 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria. 57.1.7 Known as Idena, the "gate keeper: this figure was said to watch over the roads leading to the sacred Ore Grove. It was formerly kept in an enclosure in the grove. Ore,the hunter, is associated with Ogun, the deity ofiron,and the hair depicted in relief on this figure is covered with wrought-iron nails that were inserted into holes drilled in the stone. Most of the nails, now broken,once had spiral heads. The figure is shown wearing a large beaded necklace, bracelets on both arms,and a wrapper tied around the waist; a tasseled sash hangs over the wrapper and left hip.

9 Sword ofa deity Ore Grove, Ile 12th- 15th century C.E. Granite 4 in.(142.5 cm) / H:561 National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 2007.R.82C Described by Yoruba people today as a sword belonging to a deity (orisa), known as Eledisi, this monolith may have marked the entrance to a shrine or palace. Its form relates to palm fronds called the "swords of Ogun." Most of the stone monoliths from lfe are associated with Ogun,the deity of iron,and they are found in sacred groves honoring Ogun and other orisa.



10 Shield ofOre Ore Grove, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Granite H:7 ft. 6% in.(231 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 2007.R.81 When this stone obelisk was found in the Ore Grove, it was described as the shield belonging to the tall standing figure called ldena (cat. no. 8). No one today knows what, if any, practical use this object had; it may have been a boundary marker.







Ore Grove, Ife

Ore Grove, Ife

12th-15th century C.E.

12th-15th century C.E.

Granite and iron

Granite gneiss

1: 38% in.(97 cm)

1:24 in.(61 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments, Nigeria, 61.7.33

Monuments, Nigeria,63.1.8

The mudfish is a sacrificial offering prized for its ritual name (eja ajabo), which means,literally,"a fish that fights for its life." It is used in rites for those who need to conquer some obstacle. Using their secondary lung system,the fish bury themselves in mud during the dry season and appear to be reborn when the rains come and waters rise.

Crocodiles are regarded as warriors in the water and are said to be messengers of the deities (orisa) of the lagoons, to whom they convey sacrifices. In the context of the Ore Grove, this crocodile may have represented the time when the world was all water. The sculptor has carefully depicted the teeth, ridged skin, and limbs of the crocodile.



13 Stone sculpture ofa container Osangangan Obamakin, lfe 12th-15th century C.E. Granite H: 18% in.(47.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,61.1.67 Carved ofstone in the form of a container with a cord at the top, this object probably represents a receptacle for holding liquids, perhaps palm wine, that would have been used in libations. The concentric circles on the top probably represent the foam of fermenting wine. The sculpture was found at Osangangan Obamakin,along with terra-cotta depictions of disease and figures bound at the wrists or ankles.



opposite: 15 Figure ofa dwarf Ore Grove, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Granite gneiss H:31% in.(79.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,63.1.6

14 Stool Aro Ajin Compound,lie 12th-15th century C.E. Decomposed granite H: 13% in.(34.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 58.1.4 The looped handle on this stool made ofstone(and on the quartz sculpture shown in fig. 21) may represent the trunk ofan elephant,an animal associated with royalty. Several terra-cotta sculptures depict figures sitting on a stool with their legs astride a looped handle and with their feet resting on a smaller,four. legged stool.


This stone figure of a dwarf, whose head is unusually large, may represent Ore,the hunter deity (also known as Oreluere), or perhaps Olofefunra, Ore's servant. He wears round and tubular beads around his neck and a wrapper tied around his waist. Ore was reputed to beckon visitors from a distance with laughter and spontaneous joy. If any visitor responded in the same way, his facial features would remain permanently fixed in a contorted grimace. The Ore Grove, an ancient sacred site, was still used as a place of worship when many figures, including this one, were found there in the early twentieth century.

•• •, •

Continued from page 12

visible on other figures in the exhibition (cat. nos. 4 and 38). Traces of paint indicate that many of the beads and emblems were once painted red and black. This figure gives us clues as to the dating of the other Ife copper-alloy sculptures. A sample taken from the core has been dated to 1365±70 C.E. There are no complete full-figure terra-cottas known to have survived in Ife, but a torso of a man,lacking head,arms, and legs (cat. no.4) bears a pair of emblematic bows similar to those on the copper-alloy standing king figure. He wears two strands of beads, each supporting a herringbone-patterned bow, both attached to a band encircling his chest, and his belly is faintly striated.' Because of his plumpness and the likely position of his legs, now missing, this torso has been compared to the seated Tada figure (cat. no. 36), the greatest copper-alloy sculpture from Africa known today. IFE'S SACRED SHRINES Yoruba religion—and, we may safely assume, that of ancient Ife—focused largely on important individuals who were deified at death: kings, queens, chiefs, priests, and others. Worship was undertaken in wooded groves and urban temples situated in various parts of the city and just outside it, and included household shrines, palace shrines, and outdoor shrines. Many of these have survived,and are still places of worship today, where people come to honor and entreat deities and ancestors. Ancient artifacts have been found at a significant number of these sites, adding to our knowledge of Ife culture, while current practices provide other clues about the uses and meanings of ancient He art. Among the shrines located in the central part of Ife (see map,fig. 6)are Lafogido, the Wunmonije Compound,the Aro Ajin Compound,the Aroye Compound, Kubolaje, Orun Oba Ado, Ogun Oke-Mogun,the Ogun Ladin shrine (in the Ife Palace), the Obatala shrine,and the Oduduwa shrine. Just a mile east of them is the Ore Grove,and a mile and a half northwest is the Osangangan Obamakin (Obalufon I) shrine. A bit further away, in northeast Ife, are Ita Yemoo,the Olokun Grove (also known as Igbo Olokun), and Igbo Obameri(outside the northeast city wall), and,in the opposite direction, the Obalara's Land site, the Iwinrin Grove,and Woye Asiri (all three outside the western city wall). Some are dedicated to healing; others are associated with particular deities who control certain spheres of activity, not only human but also the forces in nature. At these sacred groves and shrines, offerings are made, prayers are said, and people interact with the deities who influence their daily lives. Shrine goods come in numerous forms, types, and materials. Offerings offood, kola nuts, money or sacrificial animals are common;and in the past, humans—perhaps war captives or condemned criminals— were sometimes sacrificed, too. Representations ofofferings in more permanent materials are also placed on shrines, including stone and terra-cotta figures of rams, goats, and dogs, often depicted with tethers around their necks. Sometimes they are sculpted with integral bases so that they easily sit on an altar at a shrine (see cat. nos. 5,6,70, and 72-74). A granite skeuomorph of a calabash, with fermenting palm wine seeming to bubble over the top, suggests libations (cat. no. 13). The shrines in use today often combine ancient artifacts with new ones. The granite stelae and figures from the Ore Grove(see cat. nos. 8-12 and 15) are undated but, as Henry John Drewal explains in his essay in this book, they may well




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Wove Asiri

Ondo Rd

be among the earliest works in the Ife corpus. Some of these stone sculptures represent individuals or objects that have been transformed into stone but that are said to retain the attributes and powers of living beings. At the time these objects were discovered, the grove as a whole was an active shrine dedicated to Ore, the hunter god.(Ore is said to have lived before Oduduwa created the earth, at a time when the world was still covered with water.) The exhibition includes sculptures of various wild animals: a mudfish and crocodile carved of granite (cat. nos. 11 and 12); two owls, three monkeys,a hippopotamus,and two elephants made of terra-cotta (cat. nos. 40,41,66,67,75-77,and 101), as well as several terra-cotta rams and ram or goat heads (cat. nos. 5,6,and 70-72). Some of these animals may represent sacrifices, while others may serve as symbols of various deities and their distinctive powers and attributes. The elephant and the hippopotamus are wearing diadems and beads, indicating that they have royal connotations. In fact, the Ooni is referred to as an elephant;"One does not say that the Ooni is dead but that the elephant has fallen." A reference to elephants also occurs in the handle of a stone stool (cat. no. 14), in one made of quartz from the British Museum (fig. 21), and in the tiny stool depicted in the queen figure from Ita Yemoo (cat. no. 50 ). The chameleon, portrayed in terra-cotta (cat. nos.68 and 69),as Drewal notes in this volume, was present at the dawn of history; it was sent by Obatala to test the firmness of the earth before the creation of human beings. Its cautious gait, transformative powers, and all-seeing eyes connote age and wisdom.


Fig.6 A map of the city of Ile and the area just outside it, showing the locations of shrines and other sites where ancient lfe objects have been found

Fig. 7 West African states, ca. 300-1900

Ghana ca.300-1076

Mali ca. 1200-1500 4141, Kanem-Bomu ca. 1250-1836 Lake Chad

Oyo ca. 1200-1800

fe ca. 1100-1500 Dahomey 1600-1894

Benin ca. 1170-1897

Gulf of Guinea


ART AND TRADE IN EARLY IFE Ife was one of a number of important centers of art production in West Africa (see the map of southwestern Nigeria, fig. 5), and undoubtedly had trading and diplomatic relations, conflicts, and alliances with other centers of power. Accounts of the region in the mid-fourteenth century by a Moroccan traveler, Ibn Battuta, and in the early fifteenth century by Portuguese explorers, described the trans-Saharan trade and the links between major centers in the region. Timbuktu and Djenne (both located in what is now Mali) and other sites along the Niger River and its tributaries(including the site where the 'facia figure was found) were centers of population and commerce that linked a series of early mercantile states, among them Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. These links connected North Africa and the Mediterranean with the West African forest/ savanna borderland where lie is located. It is thought,for example, that the copper used in Ife may have come from a site in present-day Niger. And in both ancient Mali and Ife, terra-cotta sculptures depict disease and deformity, perhaps because smallpox



or some other contagious disease swept through the region,just as they did in Europe during the same period. The long time span that is associated with Ife art, from about 1000 to 1600 C.E., overlaps the growth of trade routes, markets, cities, and empires in West Africa (see map, fig. 7). Some of the great markets such as Djenne (Jenne-Jeno), Timbuktu,and Gao were city-states in their own right before being integrated into one or another empire, including Ghana, which declined in the twelfth century; .\lali, which flourished until the fifteenth century; and the Songhai Empire which fell with the Moroccan conquest in 1591. These empires had successive control over vast areas of the western Sahara, while to the east a series of states in Kanem and Bornu dominated trade toward what is now Chad and the Sudan from 1200 to about 1700. The Mande and Hausa traders who traveled these routes in the west and east, respectively, probably had contacts with the rulers and craftsmen in Ife, and every other center of art production,supplying them with materials and perhaps even transporting art objects—an occupation they still practice to this day. It is well known that these routes and the secondary arteries extending from them, including a route to the East through Chad, can be traced back to even before the Christian era, when they connected such centers of artistic production as Jenne-Jeno, Igbo-Ukwu (in what is now eastern Nigeria) and Nok (in central Nigeria, and known as an area of tin mining). But the extent to which connections among these early sites led to borrowings of techniques, materials, and styles of art is a subject of fascinating conjecture; there is little solid evidence for their associations with one another, given the distances in time,space, and the lack ofarchaeological research or written records. The trans-Saharan trade in salt, gold,copper, tin, beads,slaves, ivory, kola nuts, palm oil, textiles, copper, and other products dominated the economic life of West Africa until the late fifteenth century, when Europeans began to establish forts along the Atlantic Coast. At that time, the focus of economic activity shifted south and began to revolve around the large-scale export ofslaves and the import of European manufactured goods including guns,cloth, and beads. Although mining, textile production, bead making, and other forms ofeconomic activity never ceased, the shift to the south coincided with Ife's decline as a mercantile center and the rise of the kingdom of Benin. At this point in Ife's history, connections between and among the various centers of art production in the region become easier to document,as they are often described in written records, ongoing rituals, and oral histories. The rulers of the Yoruba state of Oyo and the rulers of Benin,for example, both acknowledge their connections to Ife through Oranmiyan, the mythical hero (or real person, perhaps),son or grandson of Oduduwa, who ruled Ife before establishing the kingdoms of Oyo and Benin. The Ife ruler Obalufon Alaiyemore, also known as Obalufon II, is generally regarded as being the third Ooni after the time of creation. He is strongly identified with Ile-Ife's commercial success and up to now is described as the patron of metal casters and bead workers. The houses of the present-day metal casters and royal bead workers are still located near the palace that Obalufon II is said to have built. The nearly pure copper mask that is thought to represent him (cat. no. 37) is believed to have been kept in the Ooni's palace since it was made. Glass bead working was an important industry in ancient Ife. While there are ongoing debates about the origins of this technology in West Africa, there is evidence that this was an important industry in Ile-Ife, as it was in Igbo-Ukwu in the ninth and tenth centuries. Continued on page 42



16 Head called "Olokun" Olokun Grove, Ile Probably an early 20th-century copy of the original from 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H: 13% in.(34.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 38.1.2 The name Olokun attributed to this head refers to the fact that it was dug up in the late nineteenth century in the Olokun Grove. At that time, it was used in annual rites honoring Olokun, goddess of the sea and patroness of bead making. It probably represents an Ooni and, in its original form, had nothing to do with Olokun. It has been identified as a modern sand casting of brass(copper and zinc, with traces of lead), probably a copy made from a plaster mold of a brass head, now lost, that was discovered by anthropologist Leo Frobenius in 1910. Prohibited from taking the original head out of the country, Frobenius did take one small piece that was broken off. With his detailed description and a mold made in Nigeria at the time the head was found, this fragment would have provided sufficient information to enable an experienced caster to make a copy."lhe head remained in the hands of the family responsible for the Olokun cult until the Ooni had it brought to the lie Palace for safekeeping in 1934. Every year it was brought to the sacred grove for annual rites. Presumably, at some point,a copy replaced the original.




It is now fairly certain that glass beads were produced in sub-Saharan Africa, not imported from Europe, the Middle East, or Asia. In the early second millennium C.E.,such production was probably centered in Ile, where the manufacture of red, blue, and green glass beads was an important industry. Beads were then, as they are still today, significant items of royal regalia. They were also valuable trade items. Bead-making sites have been found all over the city of Ife, especially in the Olokun Grove,where masses of crucibles and bluish glass waste materials were first reported in 1912. Some of the bluish wastes left over from bead making may have been from production of the dark blue or blue-green segi beads, which may be the same as those known as akori, the names for such beads depending on where they come from in West Africa.

opposite: 17 Glass-working crucible ltajero, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta, glass H: 12 in.(30.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,63.1.13 this page, left to right: 18 Glass-working crucible Ife 12th-I5th century GE. Terra-cotta, glass H:378 in.(10 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 74.1.8 19 Glass-working crucible Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta, glass H:71 / 4 in.(18 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 79.1.9 20 Beads lie 12th-15th century C.E. Glass L:/ 3 4-3 in.(11 mm-7.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,62.1.13


Other beads were carved from different types of stone, including quartz. Small stone-indented cubes found in lie, such as cat. no. 21, were used for holding shells and stones while holes were drilled into them to make beads. left to right: 21 Bead anvil lfe Date unknown Granite H:2 in.(5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,64.1.3 22 Cylinder bead lie Date unknown Quartz Diam: I

in.(2.9 cm)

National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,64.1.5 23 Elliptical bead Oke Atan, lie Date unknown Quartz L: 1% in.(4.7 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,64.1.6

Shells of various kinds were also used as beads. Some of the shells were probably associated with sacred rivers; others,from the sea, were imported over great distances. Cowries came from the Indian Ocean and were important trade items. They were often depicted in sculptures and are still used in divination and as gifts for ceremonial occasions.

25 Mollusk shell lie Date unknown Shell H: 1 in.(2.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 87.1.34

left to right: 24


Cowrie shell

Cowrie shell

lie Date unknown

lie Date unknown

Shell H: 1% in.(4 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 77.1.26C


Shell H: 1% in.(3.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,77.1.1D

27 Head lie 12th-I5th century CE. Terra-cotta H:3 in.(7.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.21 The crosshatched striations on the face here are patterns not seen on other Ile work. The crown resembles one on a small figure of an Ooni found in Benin. The crest over the forehead, however, seems related to regalia depicted on other Ile pieces(see cat. nos. 3 and 38).





Fragment ofa headdress

Fragmentfrom a life-sizefigure

Iwinrin Grove, lie

lwinrin Grove, lie

12th-15th century C.E.

12th-15th century C.E.



H:3% in.(8 cm)

H:2% in.(6 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments. Nigeria, 49.1.55

Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.30

The head to which this headdress was attached is in the Museum fiir Wilkerkunde, Berlin, and was taken from lie by Leo Frobenius in 1910 (fig. 25). The headdress, a truncated cone,shows elaborate beadwork,featuring concentric rings of round and tubular beads. The hair is represented as a series of curls into which iron nails were inserted (most of

Important individuals in lie wore elaborate jewelry. This fragment, from an approximately life-size figure, depicts a bracelet possibly made of ivory or cast metal and featuring beads,interlaced elements, and a rosette.

them are now missing). Such a treatment recalls the spiral-headed nails on the stone figure of Idena (cat. no. 8).


30 Fragment ofan arm Lafogido, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: 37/s in.(10 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,69.1.4 This fragment of an arm has carefully modeled fingernails and is adorned with many bracelets. They probably represent ornaments made of beads and metal. A twig of akoko leaves beneath the bracelets suggests that the arm was from a royal figure, since such leaves were used in investiture ceremonies to symbolize the endurance and long life of the ruler.








Torso with beaded necklaces

Fragment depicting beaded necklaces

Kubolaje, 1fe

Iwinrin Grove, Ife

12th-15th century C.E.

I 2th-15th century C.E.



H:7% in.(19.4 cm)

H:71 / 4 in.(18 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments, Nigeria,45.1.4

Monuments, Nigeria, 2007.R.28

The beaded necklaces and bracelets on this torso are similar to those that are worn today by certain Yoruba traditional leaders, locally called chiefs. It is likely that a pair of bow-shaped badges once hung from the necklaces(see cat. nos. 3,4,and 38). The figure wears a wrapper with a tasseled sash tied at the left hip, as is seen on other terra-cotta and metal figures from Ire. as well as on the seated "Cada figure (cat. no. 36).

The two five-strand necklaces from a life-size figure show that the person represented by this sculpture was wearing graduated spherical and tubular beads.




Fragment ofafoot

Fragment ofan arm

Iwinrin Grove, Ife

lwinrin Grove, Ife

12th-15th century C.E.

12th-15th century CE.



H: 31 / 2 in.(9 cm)

H:51 / 2 in.(14 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.36

Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.42

The heel of a foot shown here,standing on a plinth, is adorned with strands of beads attached to an anklet. This fragment was probably once part of a full figure.

This fragment of an arm is adorned with several kinds of bracelets. Four depict tubular beads overlain by a coiled metal bracelet with images of human skulls. Groups of bracelets are separated by motifs that appear to represent insects. The bundle seen at an angle to the arm may represent the handle of a flywhisk, a symbol of authority.



35 Fragment ofan arm Iwinrin Grove, Ile 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:6% in.(17 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.33 The arm in this fragment is depicted holding a piece ofcloth. Terra-cotta representations of bracelets adorn the arm from the wrist upward. 37



full and side views: 36 Seatedfigure Tada Late 13th-14th century CE. Copper(with traces of arsenic, lead, and tin) H: 211 / 4 in.(54 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,79.R.18 Found in a shrine in the Nupe village of Tada on the Niger River, about 120 miles(190 km)from Ile, this figure was kept there until the twentieth century along with six other castings made in various styles. In its shrine context, it ensured the fertility of the local community,their crops, and the fish in the river. Once a week, it was taken down to the river to be washed and cleaned with gravel. The Tada figure is so close in style to some of the Ile copper-alloy heads that it is assumed to have been made in the same workshop or by one of the same artists. It is almost pure copper (containing some trace elements), which is very difficult to cast, and was made in several parts that have been joined together. The asymmetrical pose is somewhat unusual in African sculpture, and some scholars have suggested that when the figure was complete it may have been placed on a support, perhaps a round stone stool. The wrapper tied around the hip is similar to that on other lie sculptures, including the standing figure of an Ooni (cat. no. 3); a second cloth, tied with a tasseled sash, depicts an open-work pattern, suggesting the importance offine textiles in Ile dress and regalia. Part of the clay core from the casting has been dated by thermoluminescence to 1325Âą60 C.E., the earliest date of any lie metal sculpture yet found.




Continued from page 25

A cast bronze head in the exhibition represents Olokun, the goddess of the sea, associated with beads and wealth (cat. no. 16).'0 Ancient bead-making crucibles show the remains of red, blue, and green glass (see cat. nos. 17-20). Beads were also made of shells and stones (see cat. nos. 21-26), and some of these—the cowries—may have been imported from as far away as the Indian Ocean. Necklaces, bracelets, and anklets of beads are visible on many of the fragments of Ife terra-cotta figures (see cat. nos. 4 and 30-35)and on the three full-figure copper-alloy sculptures. The most spectacular object found outside Ile-Ife that bears a clear relationship to works from there is the seated figure from the Niger River site ofTada, north of Ile-Ife (cat. no. 36). This large copper-alloy statue was found in a shrine which was still in active use in the twentieth century. This Tada figure is said to be one of ten that were brought to the banks of the Niger River by the Nupe founder-hero Tsoede in the fifteenth, or possibly sixteenth, century (another is cat. no. 107). Whether he brought it directly from Ile-Ife or from Idah (the capital of the Igala people, and another important metal casting center) is not known. Unusual in its size and asymmetrical pose, the seated Tada figure is thought by many people to have been made by the same artist or workshop that produced the Ife copper-alloy heads and the Obalufon mask. The calm expression on the face and the somewhat paunchy body,as well as the textile wrapper tied on the left hip, are details that are similar to those seen on the Ife copper-alloy, stone, and terra-cotta figures. It is a unique masterpiece of casting, hollow on the inside and possibly cast in several separate pourings. The location of the Nupe kingdom on the bank of the Niger River made this site an important trading center that would have linked the people of Ife to the regions north of them.

LOST-WAX CASTING Although there is a certain amount of

or with a latex made from a cactus,

clay is applied directly to the wax surface,

debate about where exactly West Africa's

Euphorbia kamerunica. Delicate details

and a heavier layer ofclay goes over that.

metal working technology originated,

that the artist wants to appear in the final

When the clay is dry, the entire mold is

it is well known that there were several

casting are made on the wax. If the main

then baked in a fire to melt the wax,

iron-working sites and copper-mining

body of the sculpture includes any delicate

leaving only the fire-baked clay shell.

operations in West Africa in the first

elements that project out from it, wires

The molten metal, heated to the same

millennium B.C.E. All the Ife copper-

or iron rods may be inserted into the core

temperature as the clay, is poured into

alloy sculptures were made by the

and then molded over with wax to produce

the cavity left by the melting of the wax,

process known as lost-wax casting, the

those elements.

and is then left to cool and harden.

same technique used in Igbo-Ukwu in

The next stage is the encasement of

After that has occurred, the day mold is

the ninth and tenth centuries C.E.(see

the wax-covered core in clay. Iron pegs

removed and the iron pegs and jets are

cat. nos. 100 and 101), though with some

may be inserted through the wax into the

cut off with a chisel.

variations. An artist using this process

core to allow air to escape from it during

starts with a real object or a clay model,

casting. The jets formed by this process

which serves as the "core" of the final

lead into a wax cup at the top of the iron

sculpture (to be replicated in metal).

pegs into which metal will be poured.

The core is then coated with beeswax

Next, a layer of delicate fine-grained



[Adapted from Frank Willett, Ile in the History of West African Sculpture(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. 52ffl

We know little about what life was like in Ile-Ife at the time this great art was made; but based on oral histories that explain the dynasties and divinities that animate Yoruba culture, we can assume that one issue may have been the rivalry between supporters of Ile-Ife's two main dynasties, affiliated with either Obatala or Oduduwa.2'Today, many people associate the Obatala group with the indigenous people of Ife, and the Oduduwa group with the dynasty that later took power. As Drewal notes in his essay in this book, while Obatala,as the original creator, has ultimate divine authority, Oduduwa is sometimes cited as the founder of the institution of sacred rulership and as first ruler (oba). Various priests and chiefs, some of whose offices are inherited, still identify their positions with one group or the other. We can also see that Ife art depicts a great variety of physical types, both human and animal. It portrays rulers and the ruled, those in power, and those about to face gruesome punishments(see cat. nos. 78,79,83,84,88,and 89). It shows the healthy and the sick, young and old (see cat. nos.80 and 89), males and females, and people with various diseases and deformities(see cat. nos. 81,90,91,93,and 95). In so far as scarification marks are an indication of identity, the sculptures with facial striations and other distinctive marks on the face or body portray people of different ethnicities or ranks (see cat. nos. 1, 16, 27,38,54,55,57, and 59-61). We can infer from this that Ile-Ife may have been a cosmopolitan city with various groups sharing power and specializing in different economic activities. We do not know as much as we would like about the original use of the objects in this exhibition. However,as Drewal notes,a ceramic pot was found at the Obalara's Land site that depicts an altar and various objects in a series ofsculpted reliefs encircling the vessel (figs. 30 and 31)," which provide the most important visual evidence from the period about how Ife sculptures were used. In addition to the platformlike structure— clearly a shrine, containing a somewhat naturalistic head and two abstract conelike heads (similar to cat. nos.63-65)—these include a snake, a drum,a knife, two horns, a ring, and the feet of a human body protruding from a basket, probably indicating a human sacrifice or a funeral scene. This pot has had its bottom broken and removed, perhaps, suggests Garlake, to convey the libations that would join the world of the living and the world of the deities and ancestors." Many of the implements depicted on the pot are associated, today, with the Ogboni Society, an organization consisting of initiated representatives of the oldest and wisest elders of the town. The Ogboni (also called Osugbo)Society still plays an important role in governing and in selecting the Ooni; in the past, members of its companion society, the Oro,carried out the judgments of the Ogboni, sometimes serving as executioners. The motifs on some other terra-cotta pots include images not only of the snake but also of the leopard, animals that are associated with strength, deities, and leadership, as can be seen on a broken globe-shaped vessel from Obalara's Land with a large leopard's head serving as the mouth of the pot24 and on a globe-shaped vessel from Osangangan Obamakin (cat. no. 62)." These two pots also include several of the same ritual motifs as the one shown in fig. 30, in similar or somewhat different versions: staffs, drums,and human sacrifices on both, plus, on cat. no. 62,the knife, ring, and horns,as well as a rectangular shrine. The latter, however, has a motif of a human skull at each lower corner.



SACRED POLITICS Most experts believe that the extraordinary copper-alloy heads (cat. nos. 37,42,43, and 45-49),and probably the mask and full figures too, were made,if not by a single artist, then by a group of artists working in one workshop. They seem too similar to have been made at different times over an extended period. This means that even if they commemorate a series of different rulers, they were probably made during a single short period to celebrate either a historical sequence of rulers or a group of leaders who shared power at a particular time. All the heads have holes in the necks, and an early theory suggested that these were to attach them to wooden bodies, perhaps for use in second burial rites." Some scholars have suggested that all the life-size heads, none of which have crowns, were used in rites, perhaps initiation ceremonies or in annual rituals of renewal and purification, where actual regalia including beaded crowns would have been placed on the heads. Whatever their precise use, there is no question that they are "striking exemplifications of repose and serenity—in fact, all the qualities of character(and hence of beauty) most sought after in a ruler. The heads are not portraits of particular rulers. They are explorations of the nature of kings and kingship, of divine authority and its proper exercise."' One theory that could explain the contemporaneous manufacture of these heads is that Obalufon II may have commissioned them in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century in the aftermath of a civil war in Ife between the supporters of Obatala and Oduduwa. Obalufon II is said to have brought about a truce between these factions: "Before Obalufon ascended the throne, Ile had been constantly raided by the Igbo, a pro-Obatala group in exile that refused to acknowledge Oduduwa's sovereignty. This group was defeated, pacified, and reintegrated into Ife society during Obalufon's reign, when the city witnessed an unprecedented era of peace, cultural development,and economic prosperity."" The heads, if made at that time—which Obalufon's identity as the patron of the metal casters suggests—may represent important officials or legendary leaders from that period. The importance of Obalufon II to the Yoruba today cannot be underestimated. Many objects in use today honor Obalufon II as the founder of the dynasty, and copper-alloy crowns and associated objects are powerful forms of regalia specifically associated with him (see cat. nos. 97-99). In addition to the magnificent heads, the exhibition includes several important objects that highlight Ife's relationship to other Nigerian cultures between the fifteenth and the early twentieth century. For reasons that are still not clear, the art of metal casting seems to have ended quickly in Ile-Ife, although it continued in many other Yoruba-speaking centers. We do not know whether the artists disappeared because of war, disease, or an execution after displeasing a ruler." We do know, however, that the art of casting was passed on to Benin, possibly through the actual relocation of the metal casters themselves. The Edo people of Benin recognize their relationship to Ile-Ife in the story of the origin of their kingship, whereby the first king, Eweka I, is said to be the son of the Ife hero Oranmiyan. This relationship is enacted in the custom whereby the head, or some body part, of the deceased Oba (king) of Benin is sent to the Ooni of Ife for burial. As recounted by one historian from Benin, it was the custom for a bronze head to be sent back to Benin after the Ooni received the remains. The story goes that one Oba,Oguola,suggested that "it would be much simpler if the Oni of Ife were to allow one of his bronze smiths to visit Benin to teach the Bini how to make such heads



for themselves."3° The man he sent, Igueghae, is still regarded as the patron of the bronze casters in Benin. One Benin figure (cat. no. 105) is said to represent the messenger that the King of Benin sent to the Ooni of Ife to request confirmation in office. As a sign of approval, the Ooni sent the Oba a staff, a hat, and a pectoral cross. According to Joao Afonson d'Aveiro, the first Portuguese visitor to Benin around 1485, the messenger would receive a small cross, which he is shown wearing in this bronze figure. The "cat-whisker" marks on this figure are not typical of Benin art, but do occur on several objects that suggest a connection to Ile-Ife. A figure of a horse and rider (cat. no. 106) has similar marks. Perhaps, suggests Willett, even though they are unreliable marks of identity,"Ife men were used as messengers between the two cities."" One way to find connections among objects made in different places is to look at similarities in the symbols and imagery that the artists incorporate into the works. This approach does not necessarily provide information about origins or actual connections, but it is a way to develop theories about common traditions. A figure carved from soapstone (cat. no. 108),found sixty miles northeast of Ile in the Igbomina town of Esie, has some features similar to many of Ife's terra-cotta figures: an oversize head and facial striations (on the forehead), an elaborate headdress and beaded necklaces, a plump belly, and its seated pose on a stool." However, we cannot be certain about links between Ife and Esie, and they remain tentative without more archaeological research. An impressive cast copper-alloy figure (cat. no. 103) that was kept on the island of Tada, also in Nupe country, does suggest links between Ile-Ife and Benin. This elaborate casting, known as the Gara figure, portrays a man wearing a double cloth, the outer one a tunic that is richly decorated with what seems to be embroidery of ribbons and birds, and,over that, two fringed sashes flanked by multiple stands ofcowrie shells that hang to just below his waist; he also wears cowrie-shell anklets. A pectoral on his chest features an image of a ram's head and three birds, recalling some of the images in much Benin and Ife art. Most interesting in terms of connecting this work to Ile-Ife, however, is the pair of disks on his head,one in front and one in back,featuring images of horned heads with serpents coming out of the nostrils. Drewal suggests that snakes may express an emanation of special spiritual energy (ase). The snake-emerging-fromnostrils motif has links with Ile-Ife (as shown by a fragment of a terra-cotta head, cat. no. 81)and Benin (see the copper-alloy helmet mask,cat. no. 109) art, as well as with the Ijebu Yoruba, a conclusion supported by a kneeling male Ogboni(Osugbo)copperalloy figure that has been called an "Obalufon" figure (cat. no. 96). Another spectacular copper-alloy figure from the Nupe region (cat. no. 104),from a shrine on the island of Jebba in the Niger River a few miles north ofTada,appears to depict a warrior or hunter. He wears a tunic that looks like armor and he carries a knife and a quiver. The emblem on his forehead shows a bird with long, looping wings reaching down to its feet. As Robert Farris Thompson notes, this image "is analogous to those of the image of the Benin king in a divine state—that is, the king with legs which have become upward-bending mudfish. Perhaps the coiled wing bird with upward-bending legs is an alter ego of the divine king."" Here again, there are tantalizing connections between the art of Ife and that of its neighbors in the region, including Benin. These connections date back at least to the fifteenth century and continue to this day.



THE LEGACY OF I FE There are few places in the world where one can find continuities in a millennium of history. lie is one such place, where the deities and heroes honored in modern life trace their origins to forebears from a thousand years ago. Although many questions remain about life in ancient Ife and the artists who created this art, there is no doubt that it still has special meaning for Yoruba people while still moving us by its evocative and provocative imagery. The legacy of Ife art extends far beyond the boundaries of the city of lie itself, and even beyond the geographic and diasporic communities of Yoruba people. Today in Nigeria, as well as in other parts of West Africa, artists continue to create metal and terra-cotta works that draw upon this great tradition. Some of the works made today are copies of the older works, while others are original creations that speak to a new world. The older works, many of which are displayed in this exhibition, still resonate with the intense human emotions that motivated their makers.




I. It is also important to note that these interpretations inevitably change to corroborate the interests of the interpreters at any given time. See Law 1973. 2. The Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970). 3. Bronze is an alloy consisting of copper with at least 5 percent tin. Frequently called bronzes, the castings from Ife are more properly called brass, an alloy of copper that contains small quantities of tin and zinc. The Obalufon mask and four of the life-size heads are more or less pure copper. See Willett 1967:55.

17. Garlake 2002: 125, caption to fig. 70. In addition to these two reasons for "this light grooving:' he mentions that they may also have been intended "to minimize reflections that could confuse forms." 18. See Willett 2004(CD-ROM):chap. 2-1, fig. 183. 19. Ibid.: chapter 2-10, discussion of fig. T363. 20. This particular head is said to be a cast, while the original,found by Frobenius, has been missing since the first decade of the twentieth century. 21. Lawal 2001: 508, and Akinjogbin 1992.

4. Other archaeological research in Ire and the surrounding region has been undertaken by J. Adeduntan, Babatunde Agbaje-Williams, Omotoso Eluyemi, Bernard Fagg, William Fagg, John Goodwin, Akin Ogundiran, Adisa Ogunfolakan, and Paul Ozanne.

22. See also Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989:66; Garlake 2002: 131; and Willett 2004(CD-ROM):chap. 2-13, fig. 1447. 23. Garlake 2002: 131.

5. Willett 1967: 14.

24. Ibid.: 133, fig. 78.

6. The collection of the museum in lie, now part of the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments, was started by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, with a group of objects that had been taken to his palace in 1934.

25. See Willett 2004(CD-ROM):chap. 2-5,fig. T243.

7. Garlake 2002: 134.

26. Willett 1967: 26. 27. Garlake 2002: 136.

8. Ibid.: 134, 137.

28. I.awal 2001: 508, with a citation to Biodun Adediran,"lhe Early Beginnings of the Ire State" in Akinjogbin 1992: 91-93.

9. Henry J. Drewal, e-mail to the author. January 12, 2009.

29. Willett 1967: 150.

10. For the sources confirming the belief that lie rulers "disappear or descend into the earth:' see note 149 in the essay by Drewal in this catalogue. For "turned into stone," see Idowu 1962/1995: 13. 11. I.awal 2001: 499. 12. Idowu 1962/1995: 71. 13. I.awal 2001: 522, n. IS. 14. The term "compound" refers to a physical house, which in Ife, as in much of West Africa, generally consists of a series of rooms opening onto a courtyard. The residents of a compound most often belong to one extended family. 15. The practice ofsecond burials is common among some Yoruba and many others in West Africa (and beyond)to this day. It is a ceremony honoring the deceased and ensuring that his or her soul leaves the community in peace. An image of the dead person, a sculpture, or a photograph, represents the deceased. 16. The welts may presented the temporary wounds that occurred when members of the royal family painted their faces with an extract of blister beetles (Cantharidae) for certain festivals, a practice described to Frank Willett by the late Ooni of lie, Sir Adesoji Aderemi; see Willett 1967: opposite p.84.

30. Jacob Egharevba, quoted in ibid.: 132. 31. Willett 1967: caption to plate 93. 32. John Pemberton III, in "The Stone Images of Esie"(chapter 3 of Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989), mentions historical and archaeological research on several towns in the Igbomina area, including Esie, which provides "evidence that there was an early civilization similar in some respects to that of Ile-lfe and remembered in Igbomina traditions as'Oba: a civilization that may be dated to the eleventh or twelfth centuries." He cautions that "one cannot directly link the Esie carvings with the Oba culture:' but quotes Afolayan on the belief "that the civilization of Oba [is] the earliest remembered cultural complex in the area, followed ... by the 'extinct' group represented by the Esie, ljara and Ofaro stone figures." Pemberton,in Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: 88, quoting Funso Afolayan,"The Esie I.ithic Culture: Perspectives from the Igbomina Tradition:' paper presented at the Seminar on Material Culture, Monuments and Festivals in Kwara State, National Museum,Esie, Nigeria, April 1989. 33. Thompson 2004: 236.



37 Mask called "Obalufon" Ife 14th—early 15th century C.E. Copper H: 13 in.(33 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 38.1.2 The only metal mask from lfe(made of nearly pure copper), and the only cast-copper mask from Africa, this work was clearly intended to be worn. There are slits below the eyes through which the wearer could see, holes in the nostrils to make breathing easier, and a gap between the lips that allows the wearer's voice to be heard. The mask could have been attached to a costume,and the holes around the face were probably meant to carry a beaded veil. This mask is said to represent Alayemore, known as Obalufon II, the fourteenth-century ruler associated with brass casting in lfe. It is thought to have been kept in the Ife palace from the time it was made until it was transferred to the Nigerian National Museum in lie.



38 Torso ofa king Wunmonije Compound,lie Early—mid- 16th century C.E. Copper alloy H: 14% in.(37 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,79.R.9 This imposing figure is the upper part of a broken king figure. It was called the Lafogido bust when it was discovered in 1938 because an Ooni by that name is buried close to where it was found. The king is shown wearing an abundance of decorations consisting of beads, metalwork,and ivory. The elaborate crest on his crown is different from that of any other known work from Ile. Many of the beads on his crown and body were painted red, probably representing jasper or carnelian. One of the many bracelets is decorated with three human skulls separated by geometric elements. His face still bears traces of white paint, and, like his torso, it is striated. His belly is somewhat large, indicating a state of health and well-being. The king holds a horn, probably from a forest buffalo,that would have been used as a container for powerful medicine.



39 Head called "Lajuwa" Ife Palace, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: 12% in.(32 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,79.R.10 This well-preserved,freestanding, life-size head is said to have been kept in the Ooni's palace since it was made,although the presence ofsome soil on the inside suggests that it may have been once buried. The cap is made of basketry and three rows of beads. The hole on the top of the head probably held a crest or feather (egret or parrot). According to oral traditions, this head represents Lajuwa,the chamberlain to the Ooni, who is said to have usurped the throne after his master's death by hiding the Ooni's body and donning his regalia. When the rightful successor discovered the deception, Lajuwa was beheaded. In one version of the story, Lajuwa set up an effigy of the deceased Ooni using a mask or copper head. When the new king found out, he ordered the slaughter of Lajuwa and of the artists and sculptors in Ife. Today Lajuwa is regarded as the patron of palace servants, a curious reward for a treacherous act.



40 Elephant head Lafogido, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:6Âź in.(15.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,63/24A The elephant,a royal animal, is depicted here wearing a beaded crown and a royal collar with an emblem at the front that is probably associated with a particular dynasty. Even today, the Ooni is referred to as an elephant,and when he dies, people say that the elephant has fallen. The head rests on a platter, which may signify that it represents a sacrificed animal. The site where it was found is said to be the burial site of Lafogido, an early Ooni of lie.


41 Hippopotamus head Lafogido, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:71 / 4 in.(18 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,72/18A 'I he ornately decorated beaded crown and the conical disc on the forehead of this hippopotamus, an animal known as "the elephant of the water"(erin omi), indicate that it was associated with royalty. Found at the burial site of Lafogido, it was probably placed at the site to commemorate a deceased ruler and also to memorialize the performance of rituals that took place there.



42 Head Wunmonije Compound,lie 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy with traces of gold H: 121 / 4 in.(31 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 1999.2.3 With facial features that bear a striking resemblance to those of the pure copper "Obalufon" mask (cat. no. 37). this head is also made ofcopper, but with the addition of one percent gold. No paint survives on it, but at the time it was found there was white paint in the corners of the eyes. Some of the dents on the head probably were caused by a pickax when it was discovered in 1938. The head was stolen in 1993 but was subsequently returned to Nigeria.


43 Head Wunmonije Compound, Ife 14th-early 15th century CE. Copper alloy H: 13 in.(33 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 38.1.8 This nearly life-size head without facial marks was crushed by a blow on the left cheek and neck, and is one of a few heads on which no paint survives. It has been attributed to "the Master of the Aquiline Profile" by one ethnographer, although it is uncertain how many artists were working in lie at the time this and the other heads were cast. Another scholar of African art believes that this head and another,along with the standing royal figure from Ita Yemoo (cat. no. 3), were all made by the same artist.

opposite: 44 Head Wunmonije Compound, Ife 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper H: 11% in.(29 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, lie 6 This near life-size head has striations incised on its face and lower lip, and has more paint on its surface than the other copper heads from lie. However, like several ofthem,it has a hole in the top that is thought to have held a crown. There are also four holes in the neck that could have been used to attach the head to a base or ring. Lines of black and red paint surround the eyes,and there is a band of red on the neck. The paint may have represented a devotional act, for even today priests of the god Orishanla, as well as other devotees of the orisa, are painted with abstract patterns (lines, dots,and dashes)on their heads and torsos during rituals and festivals.




opposite: 45 Head Wunmonije Compound, Ife Late 14th-early 16th century(1440Âą65 CE.) Copper H: 13 in.(33 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 38.1.4 The striated face on this copper head bears traces of white paint in the eyes. The lines in the face were cut into the metal after casting, not into the wax before the metal was poured into the clay mold. It is one of only two life-size heads that does not have a hole in the top or back of the head for securing a crown.

46 Head Wunmonije Compound,lie 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H: ION in.(27.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,92.2.17 A circular hole in the top of this head is larger than on any of the other uncrowned heads. A groove that continues the line of holes around the face may have been the outline of a crown. The holes around the mouth and jaw probably held strings of beads to cover the mouth. Traces of red paint remain on the left cheek.


47 Head Wunmonije Compound,lie 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper H: 12 in.(30.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria, 2001.RSW.1 'Mere were remains of thread in some of the holes around the face of this copper head."lhe neck creases indicate an auspicious plumpness, a sign of wealth and good fortune. Samples from the clay core have provided two date ranges: 1490Âą85 C.E. from one sample and, 1325Âą110 C.E.from another, using slightly more advanced techniques.




48 Head Wunmonfle Compound, lie 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H: 13% in.(35 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, lie 11 Of all the He copper-alloy heads, this one, with an unusually long neck and no facial marks, is the largest and heaviest, weighing twenty pounds(9 kg). It was found with traces of thread spun from flax in the holes over the forehead and around the mouth and jaw, probably from strands of beads that had been inserted in the holes. As in several of the other heads, there are also traces of red paint on the neck and white paint in the eyes.

49 Head Wunmonije Compound, Ife 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H: 11% in.(29 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 38.1.9 Like many of the other copper-alloy heads found in 1938 in lie, this one has a series of holes around the face, probably used for attaching a beaded veil. The face is unstriated and there are unusually large holes around the mouth and jaw. As with some of the other heads,an iron pin appears on the head, perhaps once used to affix the head to a base or ring. Some of the damage visible on this head was caused during the original casting.




50 Ceremonial vessel with royalfigure ha Yemoo, lie 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H:4% in.(12 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, L92.58 Represented on this elaborate vessel is a royal figure, possibly a queen, curled around a pot and supported on a round stool. The figure wears a crown that still bears traces of black paint, a profusion of beaded necklaces, bracelets, toe rings, anklets, and a bow-like badge around the neck. She wears multiple wrappers, showing traces of red paint, tied with a sash. The top ofa scepter in one of her delicately modeled hands depicts a human head, which may have been gagged. The bowl on this virtuoso example of lost-wax casting may have held fluid from a snail, mixed with herbs. This healing balm (omi ero), which has been compared to amniotic fluid, is still offered to the deity Obatala, the creator of humans(as well as other deities), to soften his heart.


The Splendor of Ancient Ife Art in an Early West African State

Henry John Drewal


the Republic of Benin,together

with their countless descendants in other parts of Africa and the Americas, have made remarkable contributions to world civilization. Their urbanism is ancient and legendary, probably dating back to 800-1000 C.E., according to the results of archaeological excavations at sites in Ife, one of the city-states in Africa that developed in the first millennium C.E.(and which is often called Ile-Ife by people there today); it was headed by sacred rulers (oba)—both women and men—and by councils of elders and chiefs. Many of these urban centers have flourished up to our own time. The dynasty of rulers in Ife, for example, remains unbroken to the present day. In the arts, the Yoruba are heirs to one of the oldest and finest artistic traditions in Africa, a tradition that remains vital and influential today. Ife has long held a special place in that history. Before the eleventh century it was a cluster ofsettlements in a fertile agricultural bowl whose people laid out patterned potsherd pavements in their compounds, cast remarkable works in copper alloys, and whose women created terracotta ritual objects of extraordinary artistic quality. By 1100 C.E., lie's artists had already developed a refined and highly naturalistic sculptural tradition in terra-cotta and stone that was soon followed by works in copper alloys—many ofthem sculptures of such exquisite beauty that lie's place in the history of African and world art was assured. According to Yoruba myth,everything begins at Ile-Ife, the literal translation of which is "Home-Spread:' the place where life and civilization began.' Embodied in the name and the stories surrounding it are key images and ideas that may help to explain the primacy and distinctiveness of the art of lie that may have begun to develop about the tenth century and flourished from the twelfth to the fifteen or sixteenth centuries, with the greatest production in the fourteenth.2 There are countless versions of the myth of the creation of the world and of human civilization in Ife.3 Almost all of these myths describe struggles over the authority to perform certain roles. The richness of this lore attests to its importance as an anchor that ultimately unites all Yoruba-speaking peoples, despite the diversity among their many city-states and long periods of warfare and fierce rivalry.4 All versions describe how the creator, Olodumare, instructed one of the deities (orisa) to go from the otherworld



(orun)to the world (aye) in order to establish civilization. At this point the accounts diverge. Some identify the deity as Obatala/Orisanla, the artist-god who molds humans in clay. Others name Oduduwa, who usurped Obatala's role when he drank palm wine, started to create unusual humans such as albinos, hunchbacks, and dwarfs, and finally fell asleep on the job. The story goes on to describe how the world was covered with water,so the divinity climbed down to it on an iron chain, taking along a snail shell(or gourd)filled with earth, a cockerel (or five-toed chicken/bird), and a chameleon. Upon arriving, the deity poured the earth from the shell onto the water, and the bird spread it to create land. Then, after the chameleon walked warily and gently on it to test its firmness, the other deities arrived to establish society and eventually spread out to found many kingdoms, all of whose rulers trace their origins to lie. The descendants of these rulers cite Oduduwa as the founder of the institution of sacred rulership and as first ruler(oba) in Ife. Others stress that Obatala/Orisanla, as the original creator, has ultimate divine authority, while Oduduwa has political authority. These two perspectives are elaborated in myths. Those who support Obatala identify Oduduwa as female—a goddess—whereas Oduduwa supporters perceive their deity as male, a powerful warrior king and god who came from elsewhere,'conquered,and then assimilated with the indigenous peoples in Ile who originally worshiped Obatala. These opposing versions are still recalled and reenacted in ritualized conflicts during the annual Edi festival in Ife today. Both versions and their many variants are shaped by shifting sociopolitical and religious agendas. They express the essence of flexibility, action,and openness in Yoruba society, as well as the ways in which the fabric of society can stretch and adapt, rather than rupture—by assimilation through intermarriage, incorporation, and/or division of rights and responsibilities. Whereas Obatala has taken on the more sacred dimensions as Ife's original divinity and molder of humans,Oduduwa has become the symbol of political rule as the first king to wear the sacred crown and pass on that right to his descendants.' Another recurrent theme has to do with the sex and gender roles of both deities and humans. The sexual identity of some divinities, such as Oduduwa, is uncertain or disputed. Some have suggested that originally Yoruba society may have been matrilineal, or at least cognatic (descended from the mother's or father's line) in its descent systems. Today there appears to be a difference between northern (patrilineal) and southern (matrilineal/cognatic) Yoruba realms, although many Yoruba city-states both north and south,such as lie, Ijero, Oyo,Owo,Ijebu, Ondo,and others, have been ruled by queens frequently in the past!' A third theme that may have some historical significance is the mention of specific materials such as stone, iron, clay, and shells. All of these possess distinctive, sacred, performative power (ase) and are associated with named mythic entities: Obatala/ Orisanla molds humans in clay; Oduduwa,the invading warrior deity climbs down on an iron chain, associated with Ogun,deity of iron; Oramfe, the Ife thundergod, is a stone-throwing deity; Obalufon is associated with copper-alloy casting and weaving; and Olokun with bead making. A copper-alloy torso in the exhibition—the upper part of what was originally a full-figure sculpture—depicts an lfe king wearing regalia and decorations of beads, metalwork, and ivory (cat. no. 38). Because materials symbolize and embody divine forces, their presence in ancient myths probably expresses the remembrance of certain ages, technologies, and specific historical personalities who



were later deified; such deified ancestors(who also personify natural phenomena such as a thunderstorm or a river) are called orisa. A fourth theme is the recurrence of icons such as the gourd,snail, shells, chameleon, and cockerel/chicken/bird. They appear in almost all versions of the creation myth and in many genres of Yoruba oral lore and art (see, for example,cat. nos. 13,68,and 69). The persistence ofsuch themes and icons thus allows us to speak of Yoruba history and art history, as we focus on the visual traditions of lie that display both similarities and differences with the arts of other city-states of Yoruba-speaking peoples. THE YORUBA WORLD There are several fundamental concepts that are distinctive to a Yoruba worldview. They provide a foundation (ipilese) and a cultural/historical framework for understanding the dynamics of Yoruba art and culture through time and space and some of the enduring philosophical, religious, and artistic principles embodied in the imagery of lie art. These concepts are expressed in words,images, and actions. All three modes of expression contribute to the shaping of Yoruba culture and our understanding of it. Here, we concentrate on concepts conveyed in words and images that seem to permeate a wide variety of forms, media, and contexts. In the Yoruba view, all the arts are closely related and are often meant to be understood and seen as images in the mind's eye. Such mental images (iran) are related to oju-inu (literally "inner eye" or "insight").9 Thus, both the words and the forms considered in this chapter embody concepts that are pervasive and enduring markers of Yoruba civilization that can illuminate aspects of lie art.'°

Otherworld - Orun Creator - 016durnare

Spirits F.gbc. Ord. twin


Gods - Orisa

051. An Orun sbigband mitafunfun Ed lvddrd alciraluira (hot. temperamental) (moderate, warm. variable) (cool.calm) (multicolored) Ogiin.f.ingd. Qya. Yernnja. Yewa. Erinle. Qbatali. Orisarili. Nand. etc. Osifx)si. Iheji, etc. Odua.Osanyin,etc. (colon pupa • red) (color: drithi - dark) (color:funfiln - white) A E...U.E.legbi and Ifi(Orunmila) (black/white) i(yclinwigrrrn) 4

The Living The Knowledgeable Ones(A/tiwo. Aidd.FE) - Those Who Wear Beads Fig.8 Diagram ofsome of the key elements of the Yoruba cosmos and colors associated with various beings, worldly and otherworldly. It consists of two

Kings, Queens.00gbo, Elders. Chiefs. Priests, Diviners. Herbalists. Initiates, Maskers

The Unknowing Ones(OgNri, Akio)

distinctive yet interactive realms—the tangible world of the living (aye)and the invisible realm ofspiritual forces(ono)such as the deities, ancestors,and spirits. All entities, whether in the world or the otherworld, possess life force (ase).

Strangers. Nonintiates. Children

World - Aye



••••\ "

The Yoruba Cosmos

Fig.9 Carved calabash vessel with lid, Ile. Nigeria,

Yoruba-speaking people conceive of the cosmos as consisting of two distinct yet insep-

before 1918,gourd,diam:93 / 4 in.(25 cm)/ Staatliches

arable realms (see fig. 8): the visible, tangible world of the living (aye) and the invisible, otherworldly, spiritual realm (orun) of the ancestors, deities, and spirits. Such a cosmic conception is often visualized as either a spherical gourd, whose upper and lower hemi-

Museum fur Volkerkunde, Munich, 18-22-15 The spherical gourd shown here visualizes the Yoruba cosmos bisected into worldly and otherworldly realms. The interlace pattern is a symbol of infinity, representing

spheres fit tightly together (such as fig. 9), or as a divination tray with a raised figurated

the endless spiral of life, departure, then return.

border enclosing a flat central surface (see fig. 10). The images clustered around the perimeter of the tray refer to mythic events and persons as well as everyday concerns. They depict a universe populated by countless competing forces. The intersecting lines inscribed on the surface by a diviner at the outset of divination (fig. 11) symbolize metaphoric crossroads (orita meta), the point of intersection between the cosmic realms." The manner in which they are drawn (vertical from bottom to top, center to right, center to left) shows them to be three paths—a symbolically significant number. These lines are always drawn by Yoruba priests at the outset of divination to "open" channels of communication before beginning to reveal the forces at work and to interpret their significance for a particular individual, family, group, or community. Thus

Fig. 10 !fa tray (oponifiz) Owo region, Nigeria, 19th-20th century, wood,diam: 17% in.(45 cm)/ Museum Rietberg, Zurich,gift of Novartis. Thirty-one birds gather around the edge of this beautifully carved divination tray to witness the consultation with Orunmila,the orisa of wisdom. In the poetry of Ifa, birds are often associated with female power as well as with famous diviners. The iconography of the inner circle depicts two figures smoking pipes and the face of Esu/Elegba, the orisa who transforms the sacrifices of humans into food for the gods. At the bottom of the inner circle the carver depicts a crab,a creature that

the Yoruba world view is a circle with intersecting lines. Such an image also has temporal implications, since the Yoruba conceive of the past as accessible and essential as a model for the present.' They believe that persons live, depart, and are reborn, and that every individual comes from either the deities or one's ancestors on the mother's or the father's side. In addition, rituals are efficacious only when they are performed regularly according to tenets from the past and creatively re-presented to suit the present.'3

is like Esu/Elegba in its ability to move in marginal realms. On either side of the face of Esu/Elegba is a visual pun: a face with arms that extend from the nostrils and a fishlike body that has the structural appearance of a mudfish, a liminal creature like the crab. The composition is segmented: each image is given equal space and autonomy,evoking a cosmos of diverse,competing forces.



Orun: The Otherworld Olodumare (also known as Odumare, Olorun, Eleda, or Eleemi) is conceived as the creator of existence, without sexual identity and generally distant, removed from the affairs of both divine and worldly beings. Olodumare is the source of ase, the life force possessed by everything that exists. The .otherworld (orun), the abode of the sacred, is populated by countless forces such as deities (orisa), ancestors (ara orun)and various spirits(oro, iwin, ajogun, and egbe), who are close to the living and frequently involved in human affairs. The orisa are deified ancestors and/or personified natural forces. They are grouped broadly into two categories depending upon their personalities and modes of action— the "cool, temperate, symbolically white deities"(orisafunfun) and the "hot,temperamental deities"(orisa gbigbona). The former tend to be gentle, soothing, calm, and reflective and include: Obatala/Orisanla, the divine sculptor; Osoosi/Eyinle, hunter and water lord; Osanyin, lord of leaves and medicines; Oduduwa,first monarch in Ife; Yemoja, Osun,Yewa,and Oba,queens of their respective rivers; Olosa, ruler of the lagoon; and Olokun,goddess of the sea. Many of the "hot deities" are male, although some are female. They include: Ogun,god of iron; Sango, former king of Oyo and lord Fig. 11 At the start of divination,the diviner Kolawole Ositola marks the metaphorical crossroads (orita meta) between the cosmic realms of this world (aye)and the otherworld (00111). ljehu, Nigeria, 1982

of thunder; Obaluaye,lord of pestilence; and Oya,Sango's wife and queen of the whirlwind. The latter tend to be harsh, demanding,aggressive, and quick-tempered. This characterization of the orisa has nothing to do with issues of good and evil. The orisa, like humans, possess both positive and negative values—strengths as well as foibles. As Yoruba say,"[there is] bad and good in everything"(tibi, tire ni). Only their modes of action differ, which is the actualization of their distinctive ase (life force, performative power), as expressed by their natures or personalities(iwa). Furthermore, the deities are not ranked in any hierarchy. Their relative importance in any given part of the Yoruba world reflects their relative local popularity, reputation, and influence, and the order in which they are invoked in ceremonies has to do with their roles in the ritual and their relationships to each other." The deities regularly enter the world through their mediums—worshipers who have been

trained and prepared to receive the spirit of their divinities during possession trances

in the course of religious ceremonies. When the deities are made manifest in this way, they speak through their devotees, praying and giving guidance. While all the deities periodically journey to the world, two sacred powers, Ifa and Esu/Elegba, stand at the threshold between the realms of orun and aye, assisting in communication between the divine and human realms. Ifa, actually a Yoruba system of divination, is presided over by Orunmila, its deified mythic founder, who is also sometimes called Ifa. Esu/Elegba is the divine messenger and activator.'5 Ifa offers humans the possibility of knowing the forces at work in specific situations in their lives and of influencing the course of events through prayer and sacrifice. The diviner,(baba/awo,literally "father of ancient wisdom") uses the rituals and poetry of Ifa to identify cosmic forces: the deities, ancestors, and spirits, and the machinations of the enemies of humankind personified as Death, Disease, Infirmity, and Loss; certain troublesome entities such as spirit children (egbe abiku), who may cause newborn children to die and be reborn frequently, thus plaguing their parents until rituals and offerings can set matters right; and the sometimes evil-intentioned persons known collectively as araye, literally "people-of-the-world."


Fig. 12 Honoring a family's ancestors, an Egungun masquerader(member of an ancestral masking society) wearing a beaded veil performs during an annual festival. ljebu, Nigeria, 1986

While Ifa symbolizes the revealable, Esufficgba, the agent of action and uncertainty, reminds us of the unpredictable nature of human experience. Esu's constant and often unsettling activity reminds humans of the need for guidance in lives of engaged action. Esu, who bears the sacrifices of humans to the orisa and other spirits, is the guardian of the ritual process. A verse from Ilia warns that if Esu is not acknowledged,"life is the bailing of waters with a sieve."5 The ancestors(referred to variously as oku orun, osi, babanla, iyanla) constitute another major category of beings in orun. They are departed but not deceased. They can be contacted by their descendants for support and guidance and can return to the world either for short stays in the form of masqueraders called Egungun, members of an ancestral masking society of that name(see fig. 12), or as part of new persons in



Fig. 13 Titled male members of the Ogboni Society (called Osugbo among the ljebu),shown here seated in their lodge (iledi). At the back,a shrine is covered with a curtain of palm fronds. lbese. Nigeria. 1977

their lineages who are partially their reincarnation. A young female child revealed to be the incarnation of her grandmother,for example, will be named Yetunde ("Motherhas-returned"). The grandmother continues to exist in orun, but part of her spirit, or breath, emi, is a constituent element of the new child. Aye: The World of the Living Aye,the world, is the visible, tangible realm of the living, including those invisible otherworldly forces that visit frequently and strongly influence human affairs. The importance and omnipresence of the otherworld in this world is expressed in a Yoruba saying:"The world is a marketplace [we visit], the otherworld is home"(Aye l'oja, orun n'ile). A variant of this phrase, Aye l'ajo. orun n'ile("The world [life] is a journey, the other world [afterlife] is home"), contrasts the movement and unpredictability of life with the haven of the afterworld that promises spiritual existence for eternity.17 Individual goals and aspirations in the world include long life, peace, prosperity, progeny, and good reputation. Ideally, these can be achieved through the constant search for imo (knowledge), ogbon (wisdom), and oye (understanding). Yoruba society is traditionally open, but with a long history of monarchical and hierarchical organization. Decision making is shared widely—consensual rather than autocratic or dictatorial—and an elaborate series of checks and balances ensures an essentially egalitarian system.'s Just as the deities are essentially equal in relation to Olodumare,so too all lineages are structurally equal in their relation to the sacred ruler.



At the same time, the possibility of mobility is fundamental, depending on how one marshals the forces in the environment. The situation is remarkably fluid and dynamic. Within this context, there is some recognition of rank, yet distribution of responsibilities and authority are given more importance than hierarchy. Seniority is based on the age of the person, the antiquity of the title, and the person's tenure in office. Such an ideal for social interaction is rooted in the concept of ase, the life force possessed by all individuals and unique to each one. Thus ase must be acknowledged and used in all social matters and in dealings with divine forces as well. Ase: Life Force Ase is given by Olodumare to everything—deities, ancestors, spirits, humans,animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, everyday conversation, and especially curses. This is the reason so many images of human sacrifices in Ife art are shown gagged (as in two terra-cotta gagged heads, cat. nos. 78 and 79,and the heads on several copper-alloy scepters, cat. nos. 84,88,and 89)—to prevent them from uttering an efficacious curse (epe, afose). Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon ase; it is the power to make things happen and change In addition to its sacred characteristics, ase also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as "power,authority, command." A person who,through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential performative power of things is called an alaase. Theoretically, every individual possesses a unique blend of this power and knowledge—the potential for certain achievements. Yet because no one can know with certainty the potential of others, eso (caution), ifarabale(composure),owo (respect), and suuru (patience) are highly valued in Yoruba society and shape all social interactions and organization. Social processes encourage the participation of all and the contribution of the ase of every person. For example, members of the council of elder men and women (see fig. I3)—known as Ogboni in the Oyo and lie areas and as Osugbo among the Ijebu Yoruba—have hereditary titles that rotate among many lineages, and there are other positions that are open to all in the society, as well as honorary titles bestowed on those who have made special contributions to the community. Members stress the equality of such positions in emphasizing their distinctive rights and responsibilities. All are seen as crucial to the successful functioning of the society, as evident in Ogboni/Osugbo rituals. The members share kola nuts, the drummers play the praises of titles, individuals take turns hosting a series of celebrations, each person has the opportunity to state opinions during debates, and all decisions are consensual. Ogboni/Osugbo members stress the autonomy of their individual roles while at the same time asserting their equality in decision making. At various times,some will dominate while others acquiesce, which is entirely in keeping with Yoruba notions of the distinctive ase of individuals and the fluid social reality ofcompeting powers that continually shape society." Rituals to invoke divine forces reflect this same concern for the autonomous ase of particular entities. Those invoked first are not more important or higher in rank; rather, they are called first in order to perform specific tasks—such as the divine mediator Esu/ Elegba, who "opens the way" for communication between humans and deities. The recognition of the uniqueness and autonomy of the ase of persons and deities is what structures society and its relationship with the otherworld.



Ase and Composition in the Arts The concept of ase seems also to influence how many of the verbal and visual arts are composed. In the visual arts, for example, a design may be segmented or seriate— a discontinuous aggregate in which the units of the whole are discrete and share equal value with the other units!' The units often have no prescribed order and are interchangeable. Attention to the discrete units of the whole produces a form that is multi-focal, with shifts in perspective and proportion. Such elements can be seen in Ifa trays(see fig. 10), lidded bowls, veranda posts, carved doors, and ancient lie vessels (see cat. no.62 and figs. 30 and 31).22 Such compositions(whether representational or not) mirror a world order of structurally equal yet autonomous elements. It is a formal means of organizing diverse powers, not only to acknowledge their autonomy but, more important, to evoke, invoke, and activate diverse forces, to marshal and bring them into the phenomenal world. The significance ofsegmented composition in Yoruba art can be appreciated if one understands that art and ritual are integral to each other. Art and Belief Because interpretations in matters involving supernatural forces can be personal, and because there are regional variations in practice, generalizations about Yoruba religious beliefs and practices are risky. The practice of Yoruba religion is dynamic, not rigidly prescribed. At its center is the use of ase, upon which one's strength and effectiveness are dependent. Because it is essentially performative power, ase diminishes with inaction and strengthens with activity. As a diviner named Kolawole Ositola explained: "If a person neglects his or her shrine [by not offering prayers or gifts], the spirits will leave ... All you are seeing are the images ... The person has relegated the deities to mere idols, ordinary images." Or as another priest declared,"If you don't feed it, it will die."" Therefore, art is important in worshiping the orisa and honoring ancestors. The creation ofart, its placement on shrines, and especially its activation in rituals are acts of devotion that equal the ritual significance of prayer or sacrifice. Religious art embodies spirit. The Yoruba say that a shrine is the "face"(oju) of the divinity or the "face of worship"(ojubo)." The shrine is the place of meeting, of facing the orisa and locating oneself relative to the deities. The objects on a shrine, in particular sculpted figures, are not images of the deities but of their worshipers in acts of devotion. Hence, ritual art both shapes and is shaped by the imagination of the artist who seeks to reveal the interrelatedness of the divine and the human through sculpted image. Such objects, when joined by the performance arts of music and dance,focus, activate, and intensify worship. Within this dynamic ethos ofconstant flux, creation, re-creation, renewal, and action in a cosmos of ase, certain core principles can be identified: they define and distinguish Yoruba religious thought and art, and help us understand many of the images in the art of ancient lie.

A CHRONOLOGY FOR IFE ART AND CULTURE As I stated at the beginning of this essay, the art of Ile may have begun to develop about the tenth century and flourished from the twelfth to the fifteen or sixteenth centuries; but little is known for certain and much research remains to be done. Despite large gaps


in our knowledge of early Ife, I suggest several eras that may be identified by certain key features, as follows": ARCHAIC ERA, before 800 C.E. —

minimalist-style stone monoliths combined

with iron PRE-PAVEMENT ERA,800-1000 C.E. —

stylized stone and terra-cotta pieces

EARLY PAVEMENT ERA, 1000-1200 C.E. —

elaborately decorated pavements in

shards and stones; refined, idealized naturalism in terra-cotta and metal work LATE PAVEMENT ERA, 1200-1400 C.E. —

increasingly expressive naturalism,

a freer style, many of the same motifs and feel as Owo art POST-PAVEMENT ERA, 1400-1600? C.E. —

increasing stylization

STYLIZED HUMANISM ERA, 1600/1700 to the

present — style of Yoruba art in

recent centuries "I he prehistoric era in Ife is still unknown, but data from a Late Stone Age site in Iwo Eleru,about 47 miles from Ife, have contributed some collateral data. lhere, human remains identified as Negroid, dating to 8000 B.C.E., were found)"Some artifacts from the site may support the possibility that these inhabitants were Yoruba-speaking peoples. Hoes and sicklelike stone tools appear to indicate the beginnings of agriculture in the forest region." Many abraded and chipped stone implements, grinding stones, and granite and



4:14`•`.7•73:•••••• 77.4.P1. •

Fig. 14 A drawing of 13th-14th-century lie ware showing a variety of combed,stamped, and rouletted designs, which relate to both early pottery at Iwo Eleru (in southwestern Nigeria) and recent Yoruba ware.



Fig. 15 Map of Ife and surrounding cities and towns



Ikirun• •Ila-Orangun •Ijero •Ilobu • •Esure •Osogb Igbajo EKITI IJESA •Ilesha •Ife •Oke Soda IFE

0W U




•Akure Owo• •Igbo'Laja 0W0


chalcedony axe or hoe heads were also found. Since at least around 1200 C.E., these objects have been venerated and placed on altars in Ife and elsewhere in southwestern Nigeria. Even more significant, decorated pottery from about 1000 B.C.E. appears in abundance with combed or rouletted patterns similar to the interlace and zigzag patterns found widely at sites in Ife and to thirteenth/fourteenth-century Ile ware (fig. 14) that has strong affinities with recent lie Yoruba ceramics." A systematic study of this early decorative pottery and the earliest Ife ware may reveal cultural connections between Iwo Eleru and the Yoruba in Ife. The site of Ife was occupied as early as 350 B.C.E. and consisted of a cluster of hamlets, thirteen by some accounts. Pottery fragments, tools, and quartz flakes were found at one of the original hamlets that made up Ile." The next confirmed dates,from the lie site of Orun Oba Ado(where the heads of rulers from Benin are said to be buried), are a series of radiocarbon dates that fall between 600 C.E. and 1000 C.E., with the most likely being around 800 C.E." Little is known about these early occupations, but a city wall may have surrounded the original settlement termed Enuwa, possibly connoting an agreement to join together, as in the phrase enu un wa ko("we see eye to eye").'' A second outer wall was built soon after. Such an event suggests the arrival of a sizable influx of people, perhaps associated with the stories of conflict and competition in Ife's creation myths,or perhaps with the rapid expansion of the community and economy due to lie's increasing long-distance trade and wealth. The first millennium C.E., the period in which major state formation took place throughout Africa, is only now beginning to yield its secrets to archaeological research.32 Two sites in Ife now confirm the presence of iron-working agriculturalists


between around 500 and 900 C.E., by which time Ife may have become a major urban center,judging from its walls, network of shrines, sometimes monumental stone sculptures, planned complexes of buildings, streets, courtyards, and domestic and communal altars covered with shard mosaics and elaborately patterned potsherd and stone pavements dating to as early as the eleventh century. These domestic ritual contexts persist in household altars and in burials at family compounds today. Within the early sites have been found exquisite terra-cotta sculptures and vessels depicting a wide variety of human,animal, and otherworldly subjects. Their number and their remarkable refinement and diversity of style, subject matter, and scale suggest that they were the outgrowth of a widespread and highly specialized sculpting tradition in clay that may have begun as early as 800-900 C.E. This terra-cotta (fired clay) tradition led to an artistic flowering in other mediums as well窶馬amely, naturalistic stone sculptures, lost-wax castings in copper-alloys, bead making,and weaving. Works in stone, terra-cotta, and metal were located at sites both near and far from the center of the city where the palace was located (figs.6 and 15). Often they were associated with ancient town walls, gateways leading in various directions, and forest groves(igbo) devoted to important sacred entities. The distribution suggests that these works were not the prerogative of royalty, but served a wide variety of people and purposes. The proposed chronological sequence presented above is intended only to serve as a general overview for the reader. It is based on the hypothesis that the stone sculptures and minimalist terra-cottas are probably the earliest works. The more naturalistic

Fig. 16 An Egungun masquerader wearing a costume that includes an lie head made in the Pavement Era. Due to the continuous use of objects over the centuries, few Ife works have been found in primary sites (sites that have remained undisturbed). Antiquities found

stone and clay works appear to be somewhat later, from the period called the Pavement

accidentally may be incorporated in later ensembles,

Era. Of these, the earlier ones tend to be more refined, detailed, and composed;later

as seen here. Near Ife. Nigeria, 1970

ones show a general trend toward increasingly expressive and then stylized humanism characteristic of Yoruba art from about the sixteenth or seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. In addition, naturalistic works appear to have been used contemporaneously with semi-abstract, conical heads(see cat. nos. 63-65 and fig. 31). Such a schema tends to emphasize differences at the expense of continuities, simplicity over complexity. Moreover,some ancient works continue to be used today. One remarkable example is an ancestral Egungun masquerade headdress near Ife that has incorporated a Pavement Era terra-cotta head (fig. 16). The major gaps in our knowledge of Ife and its art can be filled only through systematic and sustained archaeological, art-historical, linguistic, and ethnographic research by both Yoruba and non-Yoruba scholars working collaboratively. ARCHAIC STONE WORK Stones with a variety of forms and identities mark an ancient presence in Ife. Because the stonework found in Ife, though undated, is often associated or combined with ironwork, it can be linked with Ye's confirmed early iron-working culture in the first millennium C.E. One of the most dramatic pieces of early stonework is the Opa Oranmiyan, the "staff of Oranmiyan"(fig. 17). Oranmiyan was the mythic son of Ogun and Oduduwa, and founder of dynasties in Benin and Oyo. Carved of granite gneiss, Opa Oranmiyan stands higher than 18 feet (plus 1 foot underground) and is studded over much of its length with spiral-headed iron nails arranged in a three-pronged forklike configuration. Where they branch into three lines, a low-relief, open, rectangular form rises from the surface of the stone. This arrangement of nails is probably not merely decorative, but



t` s11.

Fig. 17 The "staffof Oranmiyan"(Opa Oranmiyan), a shaft ofgranite gneiss more than 18 feet in height, is studded with spiral-headed iron nails along its length. While the significance of the arrangement of nails is no longer known,a hole and engraved lines at the top confirm the object's phallic identity. lfe. Nigeria. 2008


has a symbolic significance that has been lost over the centuries. Each nail would have been laboriously inserted into the granite before the stela was raised. The stela, like several others associated with Ogun in Ife, which vary in height from 1 to 4 feet at various sites in the town, is phallic in form. A hole and engraved lines at the tip of the Oranmiyan "staff" confirm its phallic identity."' This general conical shape may relate all these stelae to the cone-shaped icons and to conical forms associated with heads in terra-cotta (cat nos. 63-65),cones of spiritual power (see below, page 135). Another sculpted stone, Ada Eledisi ("Sword of Eledisi"), is a monolith the top end of which curves at almost right angles to its length—an ancient sword form shared by the Yoruba, their close neighbors the Edo,and others (cat. no. 9). Swords,and iron generally, are linked to Ogun, the ancient Yoruba deity of iron. Ogun's primary symbol is the fresh palm frond known as mariwo. It must be collected from the topmost new growth of the palm tree (Elacis guineensis), which stands straight up and then bends at the tip of each frond. Ogun worshipers have explained to me that the palm frond is Ogun's sword—its form is the form of blades and of the stone sword of a deity known as Eledisi. The rectilinear stela with holes (cat. no. 10), identified as a "shield"(asa), continues this warrior/Ogun theme,as does a stone box, with a crocodile—regarded as a warrior in the water—carved on each side (cat. no. 7), another crocodile sculpture (cat. no. 12), and a stone mudfish with iron eyes (cat. no. 11). Stone and iron in combination in early lie works may indicate the transition from a Neolithic to an Iron Age technology. They also suggest a time of warfare when such technology determined winners and losers. This appears to be the case with other Ogun shrine objects at the palace in lie—a large stone mudfish and an enormous tear-shaped lump of wrought and fused iron:" Other sites contain a variety ofstone and iron objects or themes, including a snake or fish with iron eyes and nostrils at the Ore Grove, and relief stone carvings at Agidi, about nine miles south of lie; the latter depict swords,arrows or swords, hands with swords, a decapitated and bound human figure, and a rectangular stone box like the one in the Ore Grove—all evocative of propitiatory rituals and the use of iron!' Their massiveness and figurative minimalism suggest a date in the Archaic Era.

PRE-PAVEMENT STONE SCULPTURE Two carved stone figures in the Ore Grove may fall closer in time to Pre-Pavement urban developments than Archaic ones. The first one, called Idena (literally,"gate keeper"; cat. no. 8), is relatively naturalistic in style, with a head/body proportion of about 1:6. It has spiral-headed nails in its coiffure, a modeled torso, and an elaborate tied sash on its left hip. The legs are very broad, presumably to give the figure stability. The second sculpture, called Ore, is much shorter, with a head proportionately larger (1:4), a thickened neck, and a distended abdomen (cat. no. 15). These features suggest the depiction of a dwarf or unusually formed person who,according to Yoruba belief, would have been a devotee of Obatala/Orisanla and would have performed a ritual role as a guardian of shrines. Both statues are bare-chested; wear heavy necklaces with globular beads, bracelets, and wrappers; and clasp their hands in front at the waist. Two other stone statues, one close in style to 'delta, the other with a globular head and spiral-headed nails embedded in the back of the head and right side of the body, were found at a site near Esure, a town about 60 miles east-northeast of lie, where remnants of a potsherd pavement can still be seen. Other pieces from this site include



stone sculptures of a head (with a conical cap and surface decorations of a snake), an elephant's head,a sword, and male genitals, as well as a tear-shaped stone,a drum-shaped object, two cylindrical stones covered with nail holes, and a long, pointed stone object with low-relief decorations that look like tusks." Some of these objects, which are arranged in a line about a mile long in the forest, are associated in some way with the early Ife king known as Obalufon (whether Obalufon I or Obalufon Alayemore—i.e., Obalufon II—is uncertain)." The broad range of styles in the Pre-Pavement stone sculptures suggests a relatively long time-frame and varying connections with Ife. If, however, these minimalist works are taken as early expressions of Yoruba art, then they may date from the era during the first millennium C.E. that remains almost entirely unknown. The most cryptic(lumps of iron and stone, staffs, swords, phalluses) may date from early in the millennium, while figurative and descriptive pieces (Idena, Ore,and some Esure works) may date to sometime between 800 and 1000, when lie began to flower.



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alternating with rows ofstones. A vessel for libations is set into the center of the pavement and is marked by several concentric circles ofshards and stones. A semicircular intrusion at one end of the rectangular pavement indicates the position of a raised earthen altar.







Pavements of potsherds and stones may be an important anchor for dating Ife art, as noted by archaeologist Ekpo Eyo." Thanks to radiocarbon dating, we can define the Pavement Era from about 1000 to 1400 C.E. Like the distinctive combination of stone and iron seen earlier, the pavements are a synthesis of rows of shards set on edge, usually in a herringbone pattern, alternating with rows ofstones (fig. 18). This style of pavement appears to be unique to the Yoruba, appearing throughout their land." In addition to providing dates, the pavements reveal a glimpse of lie concepts of space, especially sacred spaces. The ground plan of sites with pavements shows a deeply engrained rectilinearity. At one end of this rectangular plan, a semicircular intrusion undoubtedly indicates the location of an altar, probably a raised earthen platform for sacred objects serving as a focal point for devotions.45 Embedded in the center of the pavement,and often highlighted by the shard/stone pattern, was a vessel such as the elaborately figurated one from the Obalara's Land site shown in fig. 30. It was meant to receive offerings during rites. This central location would have been the place one faces when worshiping (ojubo, literally,"face of worship").41 The raised platform would have been like an yokoo orisa (literally,"deity's seat"), a platform on an orisa shrine where the

Fig. 19 The Olowa,an ljebu priest, sits in front of his shrine, the entry to which is covered by a palm-frond

symbols of a deity reside. In some cases, the yokoo orisa may have been walled in and

curtain similar to the one in the Ogboni lodge shown

covered by a leafy canopy, probably a palm-frond fringe, as shown in fig. 19; in others,

in fig. 13. Ilebu-Ode, Nigeria, 1982

they may have been out in the open and arrayed about a courtyard.42 The precise orientation of these altars seems to have been an important concern. Five pavements at the Obalara's Land site dated to the early fourteenth century are aligned slightly south of a clear east-west axis, and others at Wove Asiri are on a north-south axis. The semicircular altars at both sites face either east or south, recalling the importance of the cardinal directions associated with Ifa ritual procedures." All of these spatial arrangements and their implied ritual actions persist in southwestern Nigeria today, most notably in the design of Ogboni/Osugbo lodges (iledi) where a pot in the center of the courtyard receives libations (fig. 20)." In addition to pavements,earthen walls also define a distinctive Yoruba historical and cultural ethos. Almost all the major Yoruba city-states were enclosed by a series of walls. Most consisted of ditches and banks, although the earliest ones seem to have been free-standing walls about 15 feet high and 6 feet thick." They appear to have been built primarily for defensive purposes. Portions of the later wall system in lie overlie a pavement that dates to sometime in the eleventh/twelfth centuries. This and other evidence suggest that the expansion phase of Ife lasted until about the sixteenth or seventeenth century.46 The tradition of walled cities must have been widespread in southwestern Nigeria by at least the late fifteenth century.47 Beginning before the thirteenth century, Yoruba city-states and their neighbors southwest of the Niger River experienced a period of rivalry, conflict, and competition that required the construction ofdefensive enclosures. This lasted through much of the nineteenth century and probably fostered the development of high-density urban settlements surrounded by agricultural lands that are characteristic of Yoruba civilization. An important feature of urban walls is the system of entrances or gates. They were distinguished by often large architectural structures and passageways with intervening enclosures for security and customs purposes." The measurement of those in lie,

Fig. 20 An Ogboni/Osugbo member pours a libation with his left hand at a spot near the middle of a rectangular courtyard where a pot covers a "face of worship." The remnants of an offering appear on the vessel itself and among the snail shells that encircle it. F.gbado, Nigeria, 1977



especially the most massive ones facing east toward Akure and Owo and southward toward Benin, are based on multiples offour and sixteen, and there "is strong evidence that early entrances were standard 256-feet squares."" These numbers are symbolically important in Yoruba ritual and divination. In addition, the size of gates leading in different directions may correspond with the nature of he's relations with cities in those directions—Oyo-Ile to the north (and others further up the Niger River)and Akure, Owo,and Benin to the east." Gates are thresholds, liminal locations such as crossroads, and boundaries. They are places where forces(whether worldly or otherworldly) are believed to meet, where friends and foes alike pass. People within a wall's boundaries assure their own safety by guarding such passageways with both physical and spiritual defenses.51 Thus city gates, or the roads leading to them, were often important ritual sites, not only for Esu/Elegba, the divine messenger and guardian of crossroads, but also other forces involved in the protection and prosperity of the town. When gates were established at such places, the most elaborate sacrifices would be made to the deities, often including human sacrifices such as criminals, foreigners, the diseased, or those with physical anomalies (see "Depictions of Disease, Difference, and Ritual Sacrifice below, pages 137-142).52 Such sacrifices were necessary to the survival and fortune of the entire realm, which depended on the effectiveness of the gate's vigilance and protective powers. Sacred art was also probably clustered at such places. In fact, a site where many terra-cottas, castings, and pavements were found, Ita Yemoo—the name itself refers to the meeting of roads (italorita)—is located near the northeastern gate to Ilesa. PAVEMENT-ERA STOOLS:SEATS OF POWER The stool is an ancient, significant ritual form in Yoruba art and history. Among the first works from Ife seen in Europe was a stool made of quartz (fig. 21), which was given as a gift to a colonial official by the Ooni of Ife in 1896. The stool's basic form consists of two circular disks, with the higher disk (the stool's seat) supported by a central cylindrical column encircled at the top and bottom by rings. From the middle of the column emerges an upwardly curving,looped "handle" that is attached to the higher disk. Crucial information about this stool's ritual uses is provided by several other works that depict stools, such as a terra-cotta stool with fragments ofa figure,from the Iwinrin Grove (fig. 22); a small copper-alloy ceremonial vessel of a beaded figure encircling a stool,from ha Yemoo(cat. no. 50); and a granite gneiss stool from the Aro Ajin Compound (cat. no. 14). The fragmented terra-cotta sculpture in fig. 22 shows what remains of a figure seated on such a stool, his/her legs straddling the looped handle with the feet resting on a smaller rectangular footstool. In the small copper-alloy sculpture shown in cat. no. 50,the figure wearing a tiered headdress doubles as the body of a vessel resting on the stool's platform, the figure's left hand holding the stool's looped handle and its right, a human-headed scepter.53 These intriguing, enigmatic images give us clues to the importance ofsuch stools or seats (ijoko) in Yoruba thought. Seats are literally, as well as metaphorically, understood as seats of power. Initiates and priests to the deities sit on them when preparing to go into possession trance. Chiefs use them when making important decisions and pronouncements. Kings use them when engaged in momentous matters—rituals,court occasions, judgments,and so forth." Altars for the divine are referred to as the "seats of the deities" Continued on page 124


Fig. 21 Stool from the shrine of Oluorogbo (Ile Oluorogbo), lie, Nigeria, 12th-15th century CE.. quartz, H: 211 / 2 in.(54.5 cm)/ British Museum, A11896,1122.1 The looped handle of this finely worked quartz stool, often referred to as a throne, may represent an elephant's trunk. One of the first Ife works seen outside of Africa, it was presented as a gift to a colonial official by Adelekan Olubushe, the Ooni of lie, in 1896 and it was donated to the British Museum that same year.

Fig. 22 Fragment of stool and figure, Ile, Nigeria, 12th-15th century CE., terra-cotta Shown here are most of the stool and an accompanying footstool that remain from a fragmented terra-cotta sculpture of a figure seated on a stool, the legs of which had straddled the stool's looped handle. It was found in the lwinrin Grove,just outside lfe, and appears to be a representation of a stool made of wood and decorated with brass bands and glass bosses.



opposite: 51 Head Iwinrin Grove, Ile 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta 4 in.(26 cm) / II: 101 National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria, 79.R.14 This striated freestanding head wears a singlestranded bead ornament with three oval tassels (one of which is missing). The multi-tiered cap (now partial) at the top was added to the sculpture before tiring.

52 Head Iwinrin Grove, Ile 12th-15th century CE. Terra-cotta H:8% in.(21 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 1999.2.4 Broken from a figure, this head shows traces of black and red paint. A cap consisting of bands of beads covers the head. In front and on top are holes that may have held crests or feathers. It may have been part of a figure seated on a circular stool, the remaining fragments of which are shown in fig. 22(see also cat. nos. 14 and 50).



53 Head lwinrin Grove, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta 2 in.(21.5 cm) / H:81 National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.58 The beads and feathers depicted on the remains of a tiered headdress on this head—the face of a life-size figure—may indicate that the individual portrayed here was a queen.


54 Head Osangangan Obamakin,lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:57 /6 in.(15 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,97.14.2 Said to represent Osangangan Obamakin (also known as Obalufon I), an early ruler of lie's indigenous population, this head was kept in the base of a terra-cotta pot found beneath another pot in the shrine dedicated to him. Today, an annual festival known as Edi reenacts a legendary battle between lie's indigenous population and the later dynasty headed by his son,Obalufon Alayemore, known as Obalufon II.




front and side views: 55 Head Iwinrin Grove, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:7½ in.(19 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.50 Most Ife heads with facial marks have incised striations. This expressive face is one of only two known heads with facial marks of raised lines(see fig. 26), which may depict the marks produced using an extract from the blister beetle (Cnntharidae). In the past, members of the royal family endured this ordeal for certain rituals.



56 Head Odo Ogbe Street, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta FE 12% in.(32 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 73.2.7I(i) The hat on this freestanding terra-cotta head may depict coiled basketry, providing some clue about how people in ancient lie dressed. Some Yoruba crowns today are still made with basketry frames covered with fabric and beads.

57 Head lie 12th-15th century CE. Terra-cotta Fl:6% in.(15.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria, 79.R.6 Found by chance at an unknown site in Ife, this head (probably broken from a figure) is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of refined, idealized naturalism in Ife sculptures. The truncated conical beaded crown has a hole in front, above the bulging forehead. It may have been used to attach a crest or a parrot's red tail feather. The neck creases are a sign of beauty, prosperity, and good fortune.



opposite: 58 Head Otutu Compound,lie 12th-15th century CE. Terra-cotta H:4% in.(12.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 23/61 The woven hairstyle on this head, broken off from a full figure, has not been seen in other examples of Ifs art. A small hole in the back may have been used for the insertion of some empowering substance. The delicate facial striations bear traces of red paint.

59 Fragment ofafigure Olokun Walode, lie 12th-15th century CE. Terra-cotta H: 5'/8 in.(13 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,67/16 The distinctive facial marks on this fragment of a terra-cotta head suggest the representation of a non-royal or perhaps non-Ife person. In recent times, this facial mark has been associated with the Yagba people living northeast of Ile. The way the neck is made indicates that it was once part of a full figure.



opposite: 61 Head Obalara's Land, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:6% in.(15.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 1999.2.5 This terra-cotta head with a variety of scarification patterns—striations,circles, and loops—is somewhat more stylized in its treatment of eyes, facial form, and neck rings than the more naturalized idealism found in other examples. A great deal of red and white paint remains on the surface, suggesting that paint may once have accompanied the elaborate scarification marks that identified this person.

60 Fragment ofa head Ogbon Oya,Ife 17th-19th century Terra-cotta H:3% in.(10 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,63.1.3 Found eroding in the ground in Ife in 1962, this fragment of a head is stylistically distinct from other Ife terra-cotta faces and may have been made in Benin,sometime between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The marks at the corners of the mouth and the two lines on the forehead and nose .uggest that the face represents a non-Ife person.




62 Globe-shaped pot Osangangan Obamakin, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:934 in.(25 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 2006.R.26 When this pot was found,the priest at the shrine said that it was used to hold water for sacrifices to Osangangan Obamakin (Obalufon I), Ife's legendary early ruler. The pot depicts scenes of sacrifice and images of power,including a pair of brass staffs used in the Ogboni/Osugbo Society, a gagged prisoner, a leopard,a vertical column of five motifs that may represent ram heads,a drum,a shrine with human skulls at the base of its two supporting posts, a serpent, and two headless human figures. The Ogboni Society (also called the Osugbo Society)is an organization of local governance and justice established many centuries ago, consisting of the oldest and wisest elders of the town: it still plays an important role in governing and in selecting the Ooni.




left to right: 63 Conical head with humanfeatures said to represent Awunrin Olojo, a wife ofOsangangan Obantakin (Obalufon I) Osangangan Obamakin, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:71 / 2 in.(19 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.22 64 Conical head Oranmiyan Memorial College, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:478 in.(12.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,61.1.18 65 Cylindrical head with crown Abiri Abraham, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:61 / 2 in.(16.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, AB 121 Conical heads were placed on shrines and may have represented the spiritual aspect or inner head (Oni mu)of an individual rather than the outer physical head (oni ode), which is represented on the more naturalistic sculptures. The conical form is characteristic of the most sacred beaded crowns (ode nta) worn by lie rulers.


left to right: 66 Owl Olumobi Compound,Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:4% in.(12.5 cm)

The owl is a creature of the night and darkness, yet it sees all. It is sometimes associated with the ruler who also crosses the boundaries between the human and the divine, as well as with members of the powerful Ogboni and Oro societies, and with mystically powerful elderly women known as "our mothers"(awon iya wa) who are said to have the ability to transform themselves into birds at night.

National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,61.1.3 67 Stafffinial in theform ofan owl Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:4% in.(11 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 79.8.2







lbadan Road,Ife

12th-15th century CE.

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National Commission for Museums and

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Monuments, Nigeria,66.1.13

Monuments, Nigeria,62.1.4

The chameleon has a role in many of the myths that describe the origin of Ife, and indeed the origin of the world. In one version, after Oduduwa formed the earth, the chameleon walked warily and gently on it to test its firmness, after which the other deities arrived to establish society. They eventually spread out to found many realms, all of whose rulers trace their origins to Ile.

Associated with the founding ofthe world and ideas about the virtues of age, wisdom,clairvoyance, and patience, the chameleon is mentioned frequently in Ife mythology and is also used as an ingredient in powerful medicines for some annual royal rituals.


70 Ram or goat Osangangan Obamakin, Ile 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: 31 / 2 in.(9 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.61 The tethering rope around the neck of this ram or goat indicates that it was a domestic animal utilized for its milk, meat, hair, or skin,or was about to be offered as a sacrifice."ille animal was once attached to a larger sculpture, probably a kneeling human figure.



71 Head ofa ram Obalufon shrine, lie 121h-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: 1% in.(4.8 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.3 This sculpture of a ram's head was on an Obalufon shrine in the Ooni's palace in lie before it was transferred to the National Museum there.

72 Rant's head on a platter Abiri, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:478 in.(12.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.15 Here, the ram's head is clearly a representation of a sacrificial animal,serving as a permanent offering on a shrine and as evidence of rites properly performed.

73 Head ofa dog Osangangan Obamakin, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:2% in.(4.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.4 Dogs may have been objects of sacrifice in lie. They were identified with Ogun,the deity of iron, and,like him, were associated with hunting.

74 Head ofa goat Aiyetoro,Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:4% in.(11.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 53.1.16 This animal head sculpted on a small platter was found with a massive bronze ring."the lightly textured surface depicts the goat's hair. The head would have been placed on a shrine as a reminder of the animals sacrificed there. 107 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

75 Fragment ofan ape Osangangan Obamakin,Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:51 / 4 in.(13 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 53.1.2 This sculpture was found with three offering pots inside a large inverted terra-cotta vessel on a shrine dedicated to Esu (also called Elegba), the Yoruba messenger/trickster deity who embodies the principle of uncertainty in life. It was found in the grove of Osangangan Obamakin (Obalufon I). Many sacred groves had,and still have, shrines dedicated to a variety of deities (orisa).





Skull ofa monkey or ape

Simian head

Odo Ogbe Street, lie


12th-15th century C.E.

12th-15th century C.E.



4 in.(5.5 cm) / H:21

H:2 in.(5 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments, Nigeria,62.12

Monuments, Nigeria,64.1.1

Found under the surface ofa street during road work, this sculpture of a monkey or ape head was probably a relief ornament from a pot.

This simian head was perhaps broken off a pot.


78 Gagged head Osangangan Obamakin, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:53/4 in.(13.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.20 On the head of the individual depicted here, the gag is tied tightly at the back, causing the eyes to bulge. The sculpture may have been left at the shrine to remind the deities of prior offerings.


79 Gagged head Ita Yemoo,Ife After 15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:6Âź in.(16 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 57.1.6 Sculpted as a freestanding head, this portrait of a victim of sacrifice was made to be placed on a shrine. His scarifications indicate that he was a stranger. Its style suggests a date after the fifteenth century.





80 Head ofan old man Okesukun Compound,Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: 31 / 2 in.(9 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,61.1.1 Portraits showing age are unusual in African art, but several examples are known from Ife. This old man, whose gaping mouth and teeth are showing,seems to have something, perhaps snakes,emerging from his nostrils.


81 Fragment ofaface Igbo Kubolaje, Ife 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:63 / 4 in.(17 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,45.1.10 The face on this sculpture, when intact,depicted a human with snakes or possibly fish emerging from the nostrils and a mouth showing teeth—an unusual feature in Ife art. This snake-nostril imagery is also present in the art ofseveral cultures along the lower Niger River, suggesting cultural and artistic interactions over a long period of time.

82 Fragment ofa ritual pot Igbolaja, Owo 15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:4% in.(11 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 73.2.71(o) The motif of a horned head with snakes emerging from the nose,found in sculptures and objects from several places around the Lower Niger River area, is vividly depicted on this fragment of a ritual pot from Owo.



opposite left:

opposite right:



Scepter with human head

Scepter ofa gagged man

lta Yemoo, lfe

Its Yemoo, Ile

14th-early 15th century C.E.

14th-early 15th century C.E.

Copper alloy

Copper alloy

H:91 / 2 in.(23.5 cm)

H: 10 in.(25.5 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments, Nigeria,57.1.3

Monuments, Nigeria, 57.1.2

The top of this scepter is an expressive portrait of a man condemned to death. The man bears scars on his cheeks, which mark him as a stranger in lie, perhaps a war captive. This realistic portrayal contrasts strongly with the idealized depictions of

The prominent brow line, facial features, hair, and rope gag on this man facing execution are signs that Ife artists were careful to distinguish images of ordinary mortals from the sculptures they made of serene royal figures, who were themselves divine.

rulers in the life-size copper-alloy heads.

85 Stafffinial in theform ofa human-serpent Ife 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H:41 / 2 in.(11.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,63.1.27 This curved handle representing a snake with human ears may have been the top end of a ceremonial staff used for the worship of Ogun,the ancient Yoruba deity of iron and war.


86 Ring of birds pecking at bound humans Wunmonije Compound,Ife 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy Diam:4% in.(11 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 2007.R.48 The image of birds pecking at bound humans indicates the theme of sacrifice successfully performed. When vultures consume human or animal sacrifices, it is regarded as a divine sign that the offering has been accepted. This ring was a shrine object, possibly used to display heads, whether real or sculpted.

87 Ring with crocodile heads and leaves Itajero, Ire 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy Diam: 3'A in.(9.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 43.1.1 A pair of rings, of which this is one, was found at a site said to be the place where the sons of Oduduwa. Ife's founding deity, met before they dispersed to found various other Yoruba kingdoms. The ring has three pairs of crocodiles with a head at each end. The heads have inlaid red eyes and stripes on their backs. They are shown with a snail, made of red metal, and leaves (possibly akoko)—a combination of motifs that suggests these rings were used in installation rites for rulers. They are the only pieces known from Ife that show inlaying ofcopper into brass.



88 Janus-headed scepter Ita Yemoo, lie 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H::r4 in.(7 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 57.1.5 Like the other two-headed scepter in the exhibition (cat. no. 89),this one was found at the same site as the copper-alloy figure of an Ooni (cat. no. 3). Here. one head is striated and the other is not; both are gagged as they face execution. One has a topknot, a hairstyle that may indicate it is the head ofa royal servant. A human-headed scepter in the raised right hand of a beaded figure wrapped around a vessel and resting on a circular stool (cat. no. 50)depicts a head similar to those shown here and on cat. nos. 83 and 89.

89 Janus-headed scepter with gagged heads Ita *moo,lfe 14th-early 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H: 3 in.(9.2 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 57.1.4 This scepter was probably used as an emblem of power, as indicated by the small holes used to attach it to a shaft, which suggest that it was rather slender."lhe detailed depiction of gagged humans,one old and one young,is an image of human sacrifice. Both men holds finger to their lower lip, perhaps affirming that the gags successfully prevented them from fatally cursing their executioners with words of power (use).



90,91 Twofragments offeetfrom afigure Osangangan Obamakin, Ife 12th—I5th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:6% in.(16 cm) H: 2% in.(5.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,49.1.48 and 49.1.49 These two feet from a single figure show signs of rickets, a disease mainly ofchildren resulting from a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D. or a birth defect such as club feet. The site of Osangangan Obamakin is said to once have been a refuge for the diseased.


92 Fragment ofsquatting man Osangangan Obamakin,lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:51 / 2 in.(13 cm)

When complete,this figure was of a squatting man with a distended abdomen. His hand,foot, and penis are visible beneath the lower edge of his swollen belly.

National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 49.1.47


93 Face with large ears Olokun Walode, lie 12th-I5th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:3% in.(9 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,67.1.4 A small face shows a person with extraordinarily large ears, possibly a congenital defect, or perhaps symbolic of special hearing powers.

94 Stopper(?) Osangangan Obamakin, lie 12th-15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H: 1% in.(4 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 2007.R.29 The bulging eyes on this face suggest that it may be a depiction ofa fatal congenital condition, anencephaly, in which a child is born without a forebrain and with the bones of the skull not developing properly, leaving the malformed brain uncovered.


95 Figure ofa man with elephantiasis (Wuchereria bancrofti) ofthe scrotum Osangangan Obamakin, lie 12th-15th century CE. Terra-cotta H: 11% in.(29 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,49.1.51 One of the most graphic depictions of disease known from lie is this fragmentary figure ofa man with enlarged testicles, which seems to show his feet bound together(one foot is missing). Hanging around his neck and hanging over his striated chest are two forest-buffalo horns, like those depicted on a vessel also from Osangangan Obamakin (cat. no. 62)suggesting a ritual context involving sacrifice. Incisions on his chest and back may represent medicinal inoculations. The sculpture is a depiction of a dreaded though not uncommon infectious disease, but it may also represent a being sacred to the deities, especially Obatala.



Continued from page 87

(tjokoo orisa), endowed with substances containing ase and sanctified to serve their various purposes. Like crowns, mask ensembles, or protective amulets, they are often also containers. The seat's physical proximity to the owners' genital zones—which are areas possessing concentrations ofase—makes the presence of power substances within the seat even more effective.' 5 They strengthen those who sit on them by preparing them spiritually and elevating them to ensure a ritual's efficacy. The lie stools depicted in fig. 21 and cat. no. 14 may relate in form to an ancient ritual container, a cylindrical box (called apere) with a leather handle. This box is used in lie to hold ritual paraphernalia and other materials, much as containers and thrones in Benin and Igala do.'Such stool-containers are also among the most important items of Ifa priests of the highest rank. Like the cylindrical box, they are known as apere or odu." What may be even more significant is that the highest level of diviners, those who divine for Ife's rulers, possess an aperelociu (stool-container), usually one that is elaborately decorated with painted designs.'s The quartz stool with looped "handle" from Ife mentioned above (fig. 21) must have been used for momentous rites. It has a hole in the center of its top platform, no doubt the site for powerful materials—medicines to intensify the one who sat upon them, libations to alert and soothe forces, or other powerful substances. The looped "handle" may be more than that—it appears to be modeled after the trunk of an elephant, an ancient Yoruba symbol of mighty leadership, a presence that cannot be ignored." As the Yoruba say,"No one ever says Did you see something?' when an elephant passes."" An elephant-head pot-lid in clay (cat. no. 40), found at the Lafogido site and dated 1100-1500 C.E., has its head bedecked in an elaborate headdress of beads, its neck surrounded by a globular bead necklace, and its trunk turned upward like the looping trunk-handle of the stool. The representation of these seating forms in art and their ritual use by humans suggest their importance. Certainly those who sat upon them must have been powerful in Ile society, made even more so by the substances embedded in the stools themselves. Their feet were elevated on a smaller rectangular stool, a practice followed by Yoruba rulers today to convey their elevated status as "deputy to the deities."''' When they sat straddling the elephant-trunk handle, their genitals would have been in close proximity to its nostril end,suggesting the transfer of power from one to the other and reinforcing the analogy between sovereigns of the forest and of the city-state. The miniature copper-alloy casting of a figure, stool, and footstool mentioned above (cat. no. 50) reveals other uses and meanings. The bead-covered royal figure wearing a multi-tiered crown (possibly a queen, the gender being unclear) is, in fact, the vessel or container. Such a person would be an alaase, possessing performative power and command,as is evident by the scepter in the right hand, the hand used for social matters. The left hand, used for sacred matters, holds the trunk-handle, while the head is positioned directly over its opening. Since stools are essential furniture for sacred rites, especially when powerful and potentially dangerous forces are invoked, they must have been used in annual ceremonies of renewal and purification, as well as in rites of transition between reigns. The transfer of power from one of the deities' deputies to the next was attended by complex and elaborate propitiatory rites. A photograph by Willett published in 1986 shows a stone sculpture in Ife of a king wearing a conical



crown,seated on one of these circular stools, and holding a human head in his hands.62 While this work probably dates to sometime from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, it clearly shows a momentous rite involving the ultimate sacrifice. Numerous examples of such stools are found in the sacred groves dedicated to various orisa, the divine lords of the realm, whose support would have been essential. BEADED BRILLIANCE AT IFE Bead-working was another distinctive artistic technique of Ife. Sites have been found all over lie city, especially at the Olokun Grove, where masses of crucibles and bluish waste materials were first reported in 1912." It is now fairly certain that glass beads(high-lime and alumina composition) were produced in sub-Saharan Africa, not imported from Europe, the Middle East, or Asia. Such production was probably centered in Ife in the early second millennium C.E."' Some of the bluish glass wastes left over from bead making may have been from production of the dark blue or blue-green segi beads, which may be the same as those known as akori, depending on where they come from in West Africa.' 6 These are thought to have come from the west, perhaps down the Niger River. A further hint of this northern connection may be the location of the grove in which the industry was concentrated, called Olokun, on the north side of the city, outside the later walls.

Fig. 23 The Flepe Epe with beaded crown, fly whisk, and staff during the annual royal rites. ljebu, Nigeria, 1982

Beads and Colors among the Yoruba Beads mean a variety of different things for Yoruba-speaking peoples, depending on how they are worn or used, and on the color of the beads. Beads—ileke, okun or akun— distinguish their owners'status and rank, alerting viewers to matters of position, knowledge, and power. Certain individuals bridge the realms of world and otherworld (aye and orun). These cosmic mediators, such as orisa initiates, diviners, priests, rulers, elders, and masqueraders, wear beads as a mark of their special position and potential. The riches associated with beads signify their good fortune in living productive, purposeful lives with sacred support. Rulers (oba), when donning a beaded crown (fig. 23), embody divinity;66 elders attired in beads proclaim their authority to shape the lives of others. The profusion of beads they wear signals distinction and authority in dealing with both spiritual and worldly forces. Yoruba culture defines and understands color in a distinctive way' .6 The implications of the Yoruba's chromatic scheme are critical to understanding Yoruba bead art, not only because much of the visual impact of beadwork comes from color, but also because colors define and reveal the nature and character/personality(iwa)of things, persons, and divinities. Yorubas distinguish three chromatic groupings:funfun, pupa, and dudu. Usually—and inadequately—translated as white, red, and black, respectively, each group includes a range of colors and hues (as we understand them in Western culture) as well as various values(shades or tints) and intensities of each color. Color cognition for Yorubas is a multi-sensory experience; it is not solely a matter ofsight but rather oftwo senses: sight and touch. Colors are grouped according to their "temperature"—hot,cold, or cool/dark/warm. Evocative associations with these variations of temperature—and, by extension, temperament—are the primary factors that distinguish one chromatic group from another. Funfun, which includes silver, pale gray, and chrome, evokes etutu (cold/coolness);funfun is also associated with age and wisdom. Pupa, evoking gbigbona (warmth/heat), includes a wide range of



what Westerners might label red, pink, orange, and deep yellow. Dudu, bridging and mediating the extremes ofpupa (hot) andfunfun (cold), includes dark and usually cool colors (black, blue, indigo, purple, and green, as well as dark browns,red-brown, and dark grays). This middle range between hot and cold can also be considered lo wooro(warm)." Color cognition also involves the sense of motion. The pupa (hot) colors appear to advance toward us, while thefunfun and dudu (cool/cold hues) tend to recede. The qualities of heat and aggressive action associated with pupa thus derive from the multiple senses ofsight, touch, and motion. Funfun,pupa, and dudu serve as visual warnings of forces and actions in the world for which one must be prepared. For example, Ogun,the god of iron and war, a supremely "hot" god, is symbolized by pupa because of his associations with blood, hot iron, the heat of battle, and the aggressiveness of one who "leaps into battle with red eyeballs."69 In contrast, thefunfun of Orisanla/Obatala, divine sculptor, conveys a wise, cool, composed detachment. Between these extremes are the mediating, moderating qualities evoked by dudu. The heat ofpupa (yellow) balanced by the cool ofdudu (green) expresses the "restraint and tranquility ... the dark, enigmatic and mysterious nature" of Orunmila,founder of Ifa divination and the deep-thinking, reflective nature of diviners." The pupa and dudu (yellow and green)colors often worn by diviners are known as otutuopon ("cool-and-hot"), These colors epitomize diviners who reveal and mediate the myriad forces in the Yoruba cosmos. Yellow is called ofeefee, a term that developed during the colonial period." While it suggests warmth, it also connotes something that is somewhat obscure, pale, or that is not associated with a particular deity." It is in a sense a color ofcompromise and mediation. Balancing ofeefee is the dark, cool mystery of dudu (green), an evocation of the healing forest leaves used by diviners, ancestors, and deities. Funfun, pupa, and dudu are connected with powerful medicines that can heal, protect, or attack. The heat ofpupa, for example,connotes the performative power of ase, and is also the color of certain potent poisons. Yoruba chromatics derive their impact from multiple, mutually reinforcing, culturally constructed aspects. Traces of all these meaningful colors can still be seen on some Ife works in terra-cotta and copper alloy73(see cat. nos. 1-3,38,44-46,48,50,52,58,and 61). The body is the thread on which beads are strung. Bright circles punctuate and surround crucial points of articulation and action—head, neck, chest, arms, wrists, waist, ankles, and toes. When threaded together, beads stand for unity, togetherness, and solidarity: they symbolize generation and regeneration. Encircling parts of the body, beads literally and symbolically "tie up," protect, and enclose unseen forces that make up the inner, spiritual essence(ase)of persons and things; they contain and seal the energy as they proclaim the presence of the extraordinary. The beaded body proclaims the powers of transcendence and the interconnectedness of spiritual and worldly realms. Such strands of beads can be seen depicted in many of Ife's copperalloy, terra-cotta, or stone figures,(see cat. nos. 1-4,8,29-35,and 38). Some beads link upper and lower body portions, as do the long beaded strands that unite head, neck, and knees in the Ita Yemoo casting of the full standing king figure bedecked in beads,(cat. no. 3). Such encirclement seals in ase as it wards off danger and loss (ofo). Toe rings, an ancient accoutrement depicted on some of Ife's sculpted figures, may be related to procedures ofelevation in status and protection from danger. For Yoruba, the toe properly prepared can forewarn its owner of imminent danger, for stubbing the


Fig. 24 Foot fragment, Ife, Nigeria, 12th-151h century CE.,terra-cotta, H:4% in.(11.7 cm)/ National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,82 This fragment of a foot and a plinth from a life-size terra-cotta figure shows a ring on the second toe. Toe rings may have been worn to symbolize elevated status and to protect the wearer from danger.

left toe when setting out on a journey signals potential disaster and provokes the prayer. A ko ni rin ni ojo ti ebi npa na ("May we not travel on the day the road is famished.")N A ring is visible on the second toe of an Ife terra-cotta foot (fig. 24), on the copper-alloy king figure just mentioned,and on a copper-alloy couple, also from Ita Yemoo (fig. 3)." Coloring and covering the body in beads is healing and empowering, because beads are medicines(oogun) that act upon worldly and otherworldly forces.' For example, to wear pupa (hot/red) andfunfun (cool/ white) kele (neck beads) is to proclaim both the retributive power and the healing, enabling presence of Sango,the thundergod. Beads are also signs of preciousness and auspiciousness: good fortune in terms of economic wealth and spiritual well-being. When a person suddenly becomes rich, people ask the rhetorical question: Tabi o jin sinu akun?("Has s/he discovered a great deposit of akun beads?"). The praise okunlola, okun nigbi oro ("the okun bead is the essence of wealth") captures the equation of beads with wealth as does a person's invocation to ensure prosperity: ileke ku u ikale("Welcome beads, welcome wealth"):8 Beads are equated with one of the most precious of possessions, children, as in the phrase ileke l'omo ("children are beads"): beads,like children, are what we proudly show to the world as a sign of blessings and good fortune. And children, like precious—and fragile—beads, must be protected and cared for. The names of royal women often include a reference to the coral beads used in regalia, as in the name Iyunade, which means "coral crown." An only female child born into a family will often be given a name such as Segilola, meaning "segi bead is wealth," referring to the very expensive, rare, beautiful and dudu (cool/dark) blue glass beads. The attention lavished on such a precious "bead child" provoked one Yoruba friend to remark that all the Segis he knew were spoiled!" The spirits of departed ancestors(oku orun, osi babanla, iyanla), usually invisible, enter the world on appropriate occasions. At these times they manifest in the form of elaborate masking ensembles known as Egungun,some of which are embellished with finely beaded panels and veils(see fig. 12). These ancestral ensembles take on the aspects



of the beaded regalia of rulers and elders, those aged and respected members of society closest to the departed. Ife's Era of Beaded Splendor The spiritual and social significances of beads are deeply rooted in Yoruba cultural history.s° The earliest evidence of artistry in what is now the land of Yoruba-speaking peoples dates to about 8000 B.C.E. in Iwo Eleru, where finely worked stone implements were found." Although no beads were discovered there, the stone-working technology for their creation was certainly present. The site of lfe was occupied in the first millennium C.E., evident from pottery and stone tools found at several clustered hamlet sites. Only works in these permanent mediums(stone and fired clay) have survived to the present day, yet if Yoruba traditions of the last two hundred years are any indication, the earliest beads may have been made of such perishable materials as wood,seeds, bone, shells, and unfired clay—forms unlikely to survive in the highly corrosive soil and humid climate ofsouthwestern Nigeria. Pointing to the early use of impermanent mediums is Samuel Johnson's description of ekuro—"the hard shells of the palm nut strung into beads and made to hang from the neck to the knees"—as the original object of worship among Yoruba.82 We must therefore consider that the physical evidence of beads in more permanent mediums may be only a partial record of ancient and varied beading practices nurtured by broader cultural beliefs and productions. Beads, whether actual or represented, played an important role in the art of Ife. The prominence of beads tells us much about the political, religious, and economic character of Ife society, especially the nature of leadership as expressed in beaded regalia, and trading networks both near and far. The meaning of the name Ile-Ife,"home-spread:' is corroborated in the layout and development of its city walls, which are "clearly based on progressive extensions from a single center:' namely, the royal palace." As power and population grew, new areas were taken under royal protection, forming a pattern in relation to the center of this developing city-state that is significant to the history of Ife beads. The beaded splendor of Ife between 800 and 1500 C.E. marks an era of extravagant artistic excellence. Ife flourished both because of its local stature and because of its trading links with distant peoples. Oral accounts of the city-state's dynastic founders mention trade in kola nuts from the forest and in horses from the north." Ife shared its commercial success with other Yoruba centers, only to be surpassed by Old Oyo as the Songhai empire and the savanna trade developed. This was at a time when Old Oyo, capital of the Oyo empire about 80 miles northwest of Ife, was flourishing as a place of transshipment for goods coming down the Niger from cities that had become part of the Mande empires, starting with the Ghana empire, northwest of Ife(most of presentday Mali, extending west about 900 miles to parts of Senegal and Mauritania), until the twelfth century; followed by the Mali empire(which reached its largest size by about 1350, extending 1,600 miles from what is now western Niger northeast of Ife to what is now Guinea, near the Atlantic coast), until the fifteenth century; and then the Songhai, or Songhay,empire (encompassing much the same territory that Mali had ruled), until its fall in 1591 (see map,fig. 7). This longstanding western-savanna trade network linked the large markets of ancient cities including Niani(on the Atlantic Coast), Timbuktu, Djenne,and Gao (all on or near the Niger River in what is now central or eastern Mali)


with other communities along the Niger River; and it came quite close to Old Oyo,as well as Jebba and Tada." Benin also began its expansions northward toward the Igala and the Niger River, and westward along the coast to Ijebu, Lagos, and beyond. To the north and east of Ife, another important link was with itinerant Hausa traders who operated from Kanem and Bornu (both encompassing much of present-day Chad and northern Nigeria), supplying copper, salt, horses, and other savanna-desert goods. These horse-trading-and-breeding centers were probably the sources for Oyo's horses. Near the Osun river southwest of Ife, Apomu,a very important regional market in the nineteenth century, serviced Ife's important bead industry and brought the beads further south to Ijebu-Ode, capital of the Ijebu kingdom and "the town at the center of the coastal waterway trade." A corpus of undated stone sculptures, remarkable for the refined sculpting technique in this difficult medium,strongly suggests the probability of an extensive stone bead industry in Ife. A stone anvil for drilling beads was discovered in a central area of Ife at the site of Orun Oba Ado(around 800 C.E., according to calibrated carbon-I4 dates), although it is uncertain whether the anvil was used for working stone or glass beads. Droplets of melted glass were chipped and perforated, as though worked like stone, which may be evidence of an earlier stone bead industry." Another stone anvil, 2 inches high, was found in Ife (cat. no. 21). Furthermore, in Isoya, in southwestern Nigeria, archaeologist Omotoso Eluyemi found stone beads (dated to early nineteenth century), as well as a clay bead and a shell. He was told by the "makers ofglass beads ... that stone beads were made by their predecessors before the knowledge of metal."" Shells, including cowries from the Indian Ocean, were also frequently used as beads(see cat. nos. 24-26). It seems likely that many Ife sculptures depict persons wearing stone beads, along with beads made of other materials, such as shells and glass. Glass working, one of the most important arts in this ancient city-state, was probably one of the key industries that led to Ife's prominence as a commercial center.9째 Glassworking sites have been found all over the city, with the most extensive being the Olokun Grove,a very large area about half a square mile on the northeast side near one of the more recent outer walls and gates of the city. The site was first explored by Leo Frobenius,later surveyed by Frank Willett, and excavated by Omotoso Eluyemi, who in 1978 found fourteen furnaces, as well as iron smelters, glass beads, pieces of tuyeres (clay pipes that brought air into a furnace), pottery-plugs, and pottery.9'Each furnace consisted of a wide, hemispheric layer of pounded clay onto which glass was fused. Most of the beads found between 1978 and 1980 both at that site and elsewhere in Ife were blue"(see the selection of beads shown in cat. no. 20, many of which are blue). Also found were crucibles or fragments of crucibles," pots made of a thick white paste and coated with glass both inside and out (cat. nos. 17-19). Yoruba artist and scholar Moyo Okediji, who lived near the Olokun Grove in the 1980s, described a rock formation called iyangi, a relatively soft rock easily dug with a machete and used for making images in honor of the deity Esu-Elegba. All along this rock were many small holes where people had dug to find glass crucibles. Okediji reported seeing several crucibles, together with stones that must have been used to work (grind,shape, and pierce) the glass into beads. Some of the stones were cube-shaped (similar to the 2-inch bead anvil of granite in the exhibition, cat. no. 21); one was pyramidal; others had holes, grooves, 1 2 inches around, or depressions." The stones varied greatly in size; one was about 2/ while others were quite big, with holes piercing them."



It is now almost certain that glass was produced locally for making beads," with the active manufacture of glass beads seeming to date from 800 C.E. However,certain by-products of the industry began to serve other purposes beginning soon after that time. At ha Yemoo,"Some scores offragments of these crucibles [that have been dated from the ninth to twelfth centuries] were found ...whilst a complete one was used to store beads on the shrine with seven terracotta [sic] figures.'"9 At Woye Asiri, crucible fragments that have been dated to the thirteenth century were found in association with a potsherd pavement" crucibles were also used in the worship of Obatala, Oduduwa, Olokun,and other deities." Although the bead industry of Ife is ancient, its association with Olokun,a female deity of the sea, may have come somewhat later. For one thing, the Olokun Grove is outside the most recent walls of Ife, on the northeast side near the road leading to Ilesa. The concentric walls of Ife have a clear historical sequence, the outer walls being the latest. Furthermore, it seems that the association of beads with trading wealth may have developed after an earlier industry in stone and glass beads had already been established in Ife (between 1100 and 1400 C.E.), perhaps during the fifteenth-century expansion ofcommerce between Ife and Benin. Anthropologist Robin Horton has proposed that such seaboard trade became a source of Ife's wealth and thus contributed to associating beads with the sea goddess of wealth, Olokun.'" Prominent archaeologist Peter Garlake has noted that "one of the few inland shrines of Olokun was at Ife. The evidence of a considerable glass bead industry.... is probably not fortuitous. This indication of wealth and overseas contacts probably gave rise to the attribution of the grove to Olokun."째' There may be some truth to this idea, especially in light of the fifteenth-century northward expansions of Benin under Oba Ewuare, when associations among the sea, Olokun, wealth, coral beads, and Benin grew stronger. Today, oral traditions state that Olokun was one of the wives of Oduduwa and lived at the Walode Compound in !lode. She was the first to manufacture beads(akun); her workshop was at Igbo Olokun."n2 Olokun was very rich but had no children. Her shrines at the \Aralode Compound in node and the Wasin compound in Ilare are the sites of annual festivals when all bead makers and sellers come together to celebrate their "wealthy heroine."003 By the early nineteenth century, the glass industry had probably ceased in its original form. A lump of fused beads was bought in the market in Old Oyo on May 15, 1830, by one of the Lander brothers(among the earliest British travelers in southwestern Nigeria), who was told that "it was dug from the earth in a country called He [sic] where according to their traditions their first parents were created and from whence all Africa has been peopled."4 Beads Represented in Ife Regalia There are numerous representations of beaded headgear on Ife's terra-cotta and cast copper-alloy figures. According to the archaeological evidence, there appear to be at least five types ofsuch headgear.'" The simplest form seems to be a woven hat or cap, probably representing basketry (see cat. no. 56), with a beaded edge and a hole for a crest(now lost), as on the Lajuwa head (cat. no. 39). Frontal crests seem to have been an important part of even the simplest headgear. Willett noted that he found many detached terra-cotta crests in a variety offorms during his excavations at Ita Yemoo.'"



Fig. 25 Fragment of a terra-cotta headdress (cat. no. 28)shown together with the head from which it became separated

Some of these crests appear to be braided, plaited, or beaded, while others suggest leaves or feathers, an element clearly depicted on one headdress and an important feature in royal and sacred headgear today.'째7 Another type of headdress, a truncated beaded cone with a crest, appears in a number of pieces: the full standing male figure found at Ita Yemoo (cat. no. 3); the Wunmonije half-figure whose headdress has a somewhat different crest and red pigment on the beads (cat. no. 38); the male of the interlocking couple at Ita Yemoo (fig. 3);108 a terra-cotta head without a crest found in the Modakeke area west of the Ife palace;I09 the fragment of a terra-cotta headdress from the Iwinrin Grove (cat. no. 28), which was separated from the head to which it had been attached (see fig. 25);"0 another piece from the Iwinrin Grove with diagonally wrapped bands (cloth or perhaps beads), a beaded border at the bottom,and hole to attach a crest (cat. no. 52); a fragmented and



abraded head with the remnants of a conical headdress bearing a crest (cat. no. 27); and a small terra-cotta head from an unknown site (cat. no. 57). Most examples of this headdress type have four encircling bands of beads that enclose smaller, inlaid rows of beads. Their beaded border mirrors exactly the outline of holes on the life-size copper and copper-alloy Ife heads (cat. nos. 37,42,43,and 45-49). A more elaborate headdress type is a five-tiered conical headdress associated with female figures, as seen in the Ita Yemoo couple (fig. 3). In one, a beaded flap hangs down at the back. Also visible are a crest and beaded forehead ring (cat. no. 2). In two variants, one found at Ita Yemoo and the other at the Iwinrin Grove," a row of feathers appears across the forehead, not unlike priestesses in Owo today. Traces of red and white color the headgear, while red appears on the lips, forehead, and ears. A vessel depicting a female figure on a stool (cat. no. 50)also wears this headgear, which is painted black, as in the Ita Yemoo couple. Some features of these headdress types—beads,conical shape, feather and bird references, frontal decoration—suggest certain continuities with headgear and crowns of the last two hundred years, but in specific details they seem quite different. The most similar to these Pavement Era headdresses may be the are crown, worn by the Ooni of Ife at the Olojo festival.'"2 Said to be the oldest crown in use (and containing parts of older crowns, perhaps from the eighteenth century), it has a conical, crested shape with a large, circular frontal disk from which project four large cylindrical stone beads. Rising above this is a long cylindrical stone bead that holds either red parrot feathers" or two egret(okin) feathers. The red tail feather of a parrot (ikoride) has many deep and complex meanings in Yoruba religion that cannot be explored here; briefly, it is used for blessing, purification, and protection. For example, before one can enter the sacred Igbodu shrine of diviners, a powerful herbal bath made with coconut water must be put on the eyes of the person with the ikoride feather. To do otherwise is to court blindness and death." The frontal disk of these headdresses most closely parallels the crests depicted in early Ife terra-cottas and copper-alloy castings, especially those of the ha Yemoo couple and the standing male king figure, also from Ita Yemoo (cat. no. 3). Cylindrical stone beads run along the crest as well as vertically at the sides. Smaller beads, possibly of glass, are arranged in horizontal bands of colored triangles. At the back is a beaded rosette."' Frontal and rear circular forms, as symbols of all-seeing powers, recall similar disks in the fourteenth-century headdresses of the Jebba bowman (cat. no. 104) and the standing Tada figure (cat. no. 103; see discussion of these two figures below, page 165).116 IFE'S EVOLVING STYLES OF REPRESENTATION The presence in Ife of pavements, city walls and gates, and a flourishing bead industry prepared the development of Ife's terra-cottas and metalwork,expressions of the prosperity and importance of Ife during the Pavement Era. A large number of terra-cotta sculptures and objects have been found,some of them datable to the Pavement Era, and at present our best source for an art-historical picture of Ife life. They range from almost life-size figures to very small figurines, and include freestanding heads, animals, figurated vessels, disks for wall mosaics, and a vast array of other subjects and styles. This enormous diversity testifies to a long-standing tradition involving many artists and aesthetic sensibilities.



The metalwork, exquisite lost-wax casts in brass and copper, is of less help in dating Ife art. It is a much smaller corpus(less than thirty pieces) with a very cohesive style that suggests they were done over a relatively short period of time, perhaps by only a few artists in a single workshop. The two or three that have been found in a datable context relate closely to certain datable terra-cottas. The twenty-five or so published radiocarbon dates available for objects from early Ile place the style of refined, idealized naturalism within the Pavement Era. Four marvelous terra-cotta heads(cat. nos. 39 and 57-59) may be early in this era, while other more expressive works may be somewhat later (such as cat. no. 61 and fig. 26), although they could simply be the result of a different workshop style, artistic vision, or purpose. In the Early Pavement Era, the careful modeling of flesh and cartilage over bone created a very convincing realism in contrast to the stylized treatment of the eyes, hairline, lips, and neck creases. The sources of this combined style remain conjectural. There has been, however, an abiding humanism in Yoruba art throughout its long history. The aesthetic of resemblance (jijora) has characterized at least the last five hundred years, if we use the Owo terra-cottas dated to the fifteenth century and ivories from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as diagnostic (cat. no. 102, for example)."7 The conventionalized realism of Ile art during the Pavement Era is not radically different. This approach to form may also reflect the general flow of Yoruba art toward increased

Fig. 26 Head showing scarifications, lie, Nigeria, 1300-1500 CE..terra-cotta, H:71 / 2 in.(19 cm)/ Ethnologisches Museum,Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, III C 27527 This terra-cotta head,from the collection of Leo Frobenius, features raised vertical striations on the face—indicating keloid scarifications—and rows of curled braids. The expressive style and presence of the neck ring relate it to works found at Obalara's Land and Obaluru that may date to the Late Pavement Era.



abstraction and away from naturalism. The trend toward role depictions, a kind of visual shorthand, may be likened to the verbal shorthand of proverbs. The Yoruba saying that "half a speech to the wise is sufficient" reminds us that allusions alone convey meaning to knowledgeable persons. Furthermore, we know that in Ife abstract works were used side by side with realistic ones (see figs. 30 and 31). The juxtaposition of both artistic styles may indicate a tradition of using abstraction to express inner, invisible spirituality, and realism to convey outer, visible physicality of persons and things. OR!INU:INNER HEAD AND THE CONCEPT OF INDIVIDUALITY The head (on)is ofimmense importance in Yoruba art and thought. In sculpture, its size is often enlarged in relation to the body (a proportion of 1:4 or 1:5) in order to convey its position as the site of a person's essential nature (iwa), and her or his ase (see cat. nos. 3 and 38). More precisely, this spiritual essence is situated in the inner head (oni Mu),a reflection of the Yoruba conception of self as having exterior (ode) and interior(mu)aspects. Inner qualities should rule outer ones,especially such qualities of mind as inner calm,self-control, and patience. A prayer,"May my inner head not spoil my outer one"(oni Mu ml ko ma ba ti odeje), expresses this concern. Ode denotes the visible, physical appearance of a person. It may mask one's inner essence, but it can also reveal it. Ideally, it should express a confident nobility of mind and Fig. 27 Symbol of inner head (ibori), western Yoruba, 19th-20th century, glass beads,cowrie shells, leather. H:61 / 2 in.(16.5 cm)/ Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund The ibori is made of various ingredients associated with one's ancestors, gods,and the restrictions or taboos (ewo)one must abide by. It thus contains everything essential to a person's life. All these substances are tightly packed in leather that is covered in beads and shells,suggesting an abstract human figure with a stylized head or conical form to convey something of the inner or spiritual life of individuals.

dignity (iyi), as exemplified in the unruffled facial expressions of many Ife terra-cottas (see cat. nos. 2,39,51-54, 56-58, and 61)and metal castings(see cat. nos. 1,3, 37, 38, and 42-49). These works wonderfully embody a Yoruba concept of good character (iwa pele) and dignity (iyi) with a refined, idealized naturalism that suggests a tradition of celebrating individuals. Almost from birth, the Yoruba perform elaborate rituals that reveal both the uniqueness of individuals and their inherent relationship to others. Newborns are given special names,known as oruko amutonwa ("names brought from the otherworld"), that reflect their spiritual nature as revealed by the ways in which they arrived, their origins, and their special qualities and potential. For example, children born with their head inside the caul are called amusan if male, or ato iffemale. They are thought to have a special affinity with their ancestors and are destined to become active members in the ancestral masking society, Egungun. Those born with a head of thick, curly hair are called dada, while those with soft, slightly curled hair that looks like sea shells are called ekine or omolokun and are associated with water spirits and Olokun,goddess of the sea. Names known as oruko abiso are given after birth and provide other clues to the nature of the person. Oruko abiku, for example, are names given to those who are reincarnations of themselves—that is, they are "children-born-to-die," meaning children destined to be reborn frequently. Oruko eya names are those given to partial reincarnations of an ancestor,such as a grandmother or grandfather. The reincarnation is partial because the spirit/breath (emi)of the ancestors continues to exist in orun, but part of it dwells in the newborn and may even appear in several children in the same lineage at the same time. These names indicate the spiritual qualities and propensities of the person,stressing their uniqueness and their connection to the past, the ancestors, and the spiritual forces in the universe. Names such as oruko abiso or oruko eyo become the central focus in the verbal arts of praise poems (oriki) and songs (orin). These arts embellish the imagery associated



with names. They serve to integrate their owner into an unbroken chain of relationships from departed ancestors to living relatives, to celebrate the distinctive qualities and uniqueness of the individual, to invoke the spiritual essence of the person, and to elevate the person by encouraging perfection and "faultless performance." 18 When such praises are voiced, the head becomes "inspired,""energized"(wu),or swelled with the spirit of one's noble ancestry, which is calculated to encourage high achievement. Naming is important because, as the Yoruba say, oruko nro ni("a person's name directs actions and behavior")."9 It also encapsulates the person's and the family's history, for names are used to reconstruct historical circumstances. The enlarged head in Yoruba sculpture, therefore, plays several roles. It is the site ofone's spiritual essence, the place through which divine forces enter during possession trance, and a kind of visible oriki conveying a person's dignity and pride in positive achievement. Much of this personal information is often kept private, to be shared only among family members or very close, life-long friends. It is believed that enemies might use such knowledge to one's detriment. Protecting the privacy of one's inner essence ensures Fig. 28 Ram's head fragment, Ife, Nigeria. I I th-12th century CE.,terra-cotta, H:8 in.(20.3 cm)/

well-being, wholeness, and vitality. The privacy and uniqueness of an individual are made manifest in the "house of the head"(ile-on), a shrine to one's personal destiny, made of cloth and leather and covered with cowrie shells, which hides the ibori, the symbol of a person's inner, spiritual essence or individuality (iponri), made of beaded leather and shells (fig. 27). In striking contrast to the stylized naturalism of much Yoruba art and the idealized naturalism of Ife art, these symbols of inner, spirituality take the shape of an abstract conical form, not

Department of Archaeology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile A terra-cotta representing a ram's head with a fringe attached to a garment. Ram images appear to be ancient and widespread symbols of power and leadership among various Thruba peoples and their neighbors in southern Nigeria.

unlike the two conical heads that flank a more realistic one in the shrine motif on the Obalara's Land vessel discussed below (fig. 30), and several terra-cotta heads (cat. nos. 63-65). These visual contrasts demonstrate how Yoruba artists convey ideas about the inner, spiritual life of persons (their on mu)through an abstract conical form, while depicting the physical exterior of persons and their heads(oni ode) in realistic or figurative ways.12째 DEPICTIONS OF ANIMALS Animals were depicted frequently in the art of lie. Their presence reveals many different ideas about the relationship of nature to culture in Yoruba thought. The ram (see cat. nos. 5,6, and 70-72),elephant (see cat. no. 40), hippopotamus(see cat. no. 41), and leopard (see cat. no. 62)are viewed as powerful, alert, protective, and commanding creatures. They are associated with royalty and highly esteemed ancestors, for they are rulers in their own realms. Their representation in sculpture alludes to their sacrifice by humans, who use the awesome ase in their blood to enhance the efficacy of important rituals for the benefit of the community. A fringed ram's-head pendant attached to a fragment of a garment (fig. 28) probably comes from the Early Pavement Era. Such attachments have a long and important history in the art of this region, where variants in bronze and wood are especially associated with the southern Yoruba states of ljebu and Owo,and the Benin kingdom. In lie, the ram appears to be linked with leadership,judging from the headdress, crest, and globular necklace that surrounds its head at I.afogido, where it is one ofseveral pot-lids depicting animal heads, including those of an elephant and a hippopotamus (see cat. nos. 40 and 41). The same regalia appears in sculptures of humans."' At



Lafogido,such pots with animal-head lids were arranged in a rectangular pattern around a pavement with a hole, probably for a buried vessel like the kind found at the Obalara's Land site(see fig. 30)or at Osangangan Obamakin (see cat. no.62). These animal pot-lids most likely derive from the Yoruba practice of putting the actual heads of major sacrifices on the tops of vessels that constitute altars. Thus the animal heads were rendered in terra-cotta to commemorate,in a more permanent way, rituals properly performed (see cat. nos. 41,66,67,and 70-77), and they were then displayed as attachments on individuals responsible for such rituals.'" Depictions ofleaves are present on these animal pot-lids from Lafogido and on sculptures of people, worn as a form of adornment,as in a terra-cotta arm fragment from Lafogido (cat. no. 30). If present-day procedures apply, then such leaves were used in the installation rites of chiefs and royals. Their presence on these pot-lids may indicate the burial place of a chiefor high court official. Rams,elephants, hippos, and leopards, as well as forest buffaloes, constitute the most elaborate offerings, exceeded only in their "performative power" or ase by human sacrifice (see cat. nos. 78, 79,84,88,and 89). Horns of a forest buffalo can be seen depicted in several works: in the left hand ofa ruler, where it is used to hold powerful medicines (cat. no. 3),on the pots from Obalara's Land (fig. 30)and Osangangan Obamakin (cat. no.62), and around the necks of a diseased male (cat. no. 95). Monkeys (see cat. nos. 75-77), with their physical and behavioral similarities to humans, may have been seen as substitutes for human offerings. In much Yoruba lore, they are tricksters and thieves, wily creatures with wit and cunning. The mudfish (see cat. no. 11) is a sacrificial offering prized for its ritual name(eja ajabo, which means, literally,"a fish that fights for its life") by "those who need to conquer."23 Mudfish estivate in the mud during the dry season and appear to be "re-born" when the rains come and waters rise. Other small animals such as the dog and the goat(see cat. nos. 70, 73, and 74) were also offered as sacrifices. Dogs are associated with Ogun,deity of iron and war, and goats are a favorite of other divinities. Some creatures may connote other ideas. The crocodile (see cat. nos. 7, 12, and 87) is seen as a warrior in the water, powerful and aggressive and, like the mudfish and some snakes, able to live in water and on land. The chameleon (see cat. nos. 68 and 69) is regarded as a powerful,all-seeing magician, a symbol of transformation, capable of changing its appearance for defense and self-protection. Its eyes rotate separately, able to see forward and backward simultaneously. Its slow, cautious movement(for which it is honored in the Yoruba myth of creation; see page 71,above)epitomizes age, wisdom, and the Yoruba ideal of patience (suuru). Its large mouth,long tongue, and hissing sound evoke the power of words(afose) to bless or curse. Chameleons are an essential ingredient in certain empowering medicines(oogun). Their presence in the art of Ife affirms their importance in Yoruba thought and ritual practice. Snails are widely known to provide the cooling, healing fluid known as omi ero—a key ingredient in many medicinal preparations. If a small metal casting of a bowl (cat. no. 50) held omi ero, and if it was used in royal rites, then the fluid may have been meant to soothe, heal, and "soften the heart of the orisa."24 The owl (see cat. nos.66 and 67), a creature of the night and dangerous nocturnal forces, is associated with two aspects of Yoruba culture—Oro and powerful women. The Oro Society, responsible for carrying out the judgments(punishments and executions) of the Ogboni/Osugbo Society, does its work at night under strict curfews. A bullroarer


announces its presence, the sound often likened to that of an owl(or dog). Owls are also associated with the mystical powers of elderly women known as "our mothers" (awon iya wa) who are believed to be capable of turning into birds at night. Snakes also appear frequently in Ile art (see cat. nos. 62,81,82,and 85) and the figurated pot from Obalara's Land,(fig. 30) and, like the chameleon and owl, they embody certain spiritual connotations. Snakes are liminal—threshold—creatures that can dwell both in water and on land. They shed their skins and thus are figuratively "re-born," like reincarnated persons, according to Yoruba beliefs. When they occur in unusual settings—as in depictions of human faces where they are shown emerging from nostrils (see cat. nos. 81 and 82)—they may suggest a powerful spiritual emanation of ase. When descending over an altar with conical and naturalistic heads(as on the vessel shown in figs. 30 and 31)or juxtaposed next to skulls at the base ofshrine posts, they connote ritual contexts that connect otherworldly and worldly forces. DEPICTIONS OF DISEASE, DIFFERENCE, AND RITUAL SACRIFICE One of the most remarkable works of art uncovered in Ife is the terra-cotta sculpture depicting the head and shoulders of a diseased person wearing a beaded headband and a necklace with a small simian-skull pendant (fig. 29).'" This representation of an individual with an extraordinary cranial form was found at the Obalara's Land site above a group of eight human skulls and bones, along with red stone and carnelian beads dated to the early fourteenth century.'26 Another statue of a similarly diseased person, with misshapen head and swollen features, emaciated arm,distended belly and

Fig. 29 Fragment of a face, Ife, Nigeria, 12th-I5th century CE.,terra-cotta, H:6 in.(15.2 cm)/ Department of Archaeology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife This terra-cotta sculpture of a diseased individual with an unusual cranial form and distended features, wears a small simian skull pendant around its neck. The large stone bead crowning its head may indicate rank or authority in rituals that must have been concerned with sacrifice, death, and life.



runny nose was found nearby, along with similar fragments—a swollen hand holding a cockerel and an anacephelous head with what appear to be snakes issuing from its nostrils. Radiocarbon dates place the site between 1230 and 1410, which makes it only slightly later than Ita Yemoo and perhaps Lafogido.12; Sculptures of figures distinguished by physical deformities and anomalies or by the effects of disease have also been found at other sites. Some examples in the exhibition are a terra-cotta head of a man with enormous ears found at Olokun Walode (cat. no.93) and several terra-cotta figures or fragments found at Osangangan Obamakin: a torso of a man suffering from elephantiasis, and fragments ofa leg and foot depicting individuals with rickets, of a misshapen hand and foot, and of a face with bulging eyes (cat. nos. 90-92,94,and 95). What are we to make of these images of diseased or unusually-shaped humans and how might they have been regarded (and used)in ancient Ife? According to Yoruba belief, disease, illness, or misfortune is caused by either divine forces or human interventions. Humans born with extraordinary shapes or conditions(anacephelous heads, hunchbacks,extra fingers or toes, albinism, etc.) would be interpreted as having been touched by the hand of the divine sculptor Obatala/Orisanla. Those who became diseased during their lives might be understood as suffering because of the actions of an enemy. In either case, such persons might be destined (as revealed in divination) to serve as either servitors of the deities at their shrines, or as offerings to them. It is significant that the site of Obalara's Land was in the past a sanctuary for the diseased

Fig. 30 Ritual vessel, Obalara's Land, lie, Nigeria, 13th-14th century CE.,terra-cotta, H:9% in. (24.9 cm)/ University Art Museum,Obafemi Awolowo University, lie This cylindrical-necked, globe-shaped vessel has an elaborate program ofimages in relief around its circumference,evoking themes of sacrifice, disease, death, and life. It was buried in a potsherd pavement at the Obalara's Land site with only its neck showing. and the bottom of it had been broken before being placed in the pavement,suggesting that the libations poured into it were meant to penetrate the earth.





(those suffering from smallpox and perhaps other afflictions) and the shrine of Owinni,

Fig. 31 Drawing of a series of eight motifs on the

a deified ancestor.'28 The fashioning of images of disease may have been part of the cure.

vessel shown in fig. 30. Fragments of two other vessels with similar motifs were also found at the Obalards

Such a perspective may help to explain the significance of the confluence of certain

Land site, and another at the Koiwo Layout site, lfe.

subject matter, images, and human remains at Obalara. The sculpture of the unusual head (fig. 29) with the skull pendant is an homage to differentness. It probably depicts a person whose head is regarded as special, a visible manifestation of the handiwork of Obatala/Orisanla, regarded not only as the divine sculptor of humans but as the guardian ofall—dwarfs, hunchbacks, extra-digited persons, albinos, etc.—whose physical form marks them as extraordinary or, as one Yoruba explained,"spiritually gifted." Such individuals, as children of Obatala(omo Obatala), are often expected to officiate at sacred sites—and sometimes to be offered there for sacrifice as Nvell.'29 The headband on this figure (fig. 29)features a large cylindrical bead (probably stone) flanked by two smaller round ones. The large bead is the figure's mark of authority, as indicated by its position near the very spot where inoculations are made that prepare an orisa initiate's head to receive divinity. Its placement high on the forehead also draws our attention to the unusual cranial form. Like rulers' beaded crowns, this beaded band proclaims its wearer's distinctive on inu.'" Another remarkable work is a cylindrical-necked vessel with an elaborate arrangement of images in high relief around its circumference (figs. 30 and 31). It was found at the Obalara's Land site embedded in the ground at the center of a pavement with only the top of its neck showing."' Like all the vessels at Obalara, it had been broken at the bottom before being placed there. The motifs on the vessel (starting left to right in the drawing, fig. 31) are:(1) a long sinuous form with an incision at the end;(2) two horns, possibly those of a bush cow,joined by a cord looped once around a knob;(3) a circular rod with slightly splayed and overlapping ends;(4)an open rectangle within which are three heads(two conical heads with minimal facial features, flanking a realistic head with a conical headdress), topped by a fringed canopy and a serpent facing downward just over the central head;(5)a pair of human legs and feet projecting upside down out of a cylindrical woven container;(6)a pair of elongated, slightly curved blade forms joined by a cord looped once around a knob;(7) a tall, rounded cylindrical drum with a slightly flared pedestal base and decorative band around its middle; and (8) a knife with a broad,curved blade with a pointed end. These images are spaced irregularly around the vessel, with radical shifts in perspective, and thus present a clearly segmented composition—an ancient fundamental design approach among Yoruba artists.'32



These very striking works,and the others found with them,tell us much about Ife art and culture in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Clearly the themes of sacrifice, disease, death, and life are central at Obalara's Land. The skull pendant, gaping mouth and tongue, and grimacing face in fig. 29 dramatically evoke such themes, which must be interpreted according to Yoruba aesthetic and philosophical concepts. Given the primary canon of appropriateness in the depiction of a subject and the principle of conceding "to each his/her own essence or iwa," these works may be representing the beauty of specialness or difference. The large cylindrical bead on the head with the skull pendant also marks the figure as someone who is destined to serve at sacred sites—and who is perhaps, also prepared to be offered there. On the Obalara's Land vessel featuring the shrine image,the portrayal of a knife (motif8)and a wrapped human sacrifice(motif5)support this theme. The looped blades on cords(motif6)look very much like bullroarers. Used by the Oro Society, these bladelike forms attached on a cord were whirled over the head to make an eerie humming noise, described by some as "the dog of Oro" and by others as the sound of an owl, a bird that, like the members of Oro,is active at night(see the owl figure and the owl finial, cat. nos.66 and 67). Bullroarers were used to signal executions, burials, and other momentous ritual events. Plain, pointed staffs joined by a cord on an Obalara leopard-headed vessel'" are identical to the unfigurated edan staffs of the Ogboni,"4 the society that works with the Oro executioners. The linked horns(motif 2)are worn around the neck, as can be seen in a terra-cotta figure of a man suffering from elephantiasis (cat. no. suggesting a connection to the diseased individuals and sacrifices that are represented at Obalara. The drum (motif 7)looks like an Ogboni/Osugbo type known as an agba, and the sinuous form (motif 1) resembles a whip. Arrayed before us then are ritual implements and offerings to be used in the presence of the "face"(ojubo) for worship, represented by three terra-cotta heads(two conical, one realistic) on an enclosed altar with what may be a palm-frond canopy draped over it(motif4). The slithering snake draws our eyes to this altar, and reminds us of the large bronze python over the entrance of the palace in Benin. Some of these motifs are found on two other fragments at Obalara: the linked staves and horns, ring, and drums. A human sacrifice is shown on one fragment as a gagged head and on the other as a bound,gagged, and decapitated human victim. A leopard and snake join the series.138 One of several terra-cotta heads (cat. no.61) was also recovered from Obalara.'" It has a distinctive set offacial scarification patterns including vertical striations on the forehead, nose, upper lip, chin, and outer cheeks as well as radiating marks at the corner of the mouth,and circles on the cheeks. Traces of red pigment can be seen on the face and neck, and white on the eyeballs and within scarifications. The head appears to have been cut from a larger piece, probably a globular vessel,like two heads that were found at the Olokun shrine in Obaluru near Ife.138 The Obaluru heads, and another in the same style at Obalara, are shown with thick rings(perhaps made of metal)around their necks, a fact that may help to explain the holes on the necks of life-size standing brass heads (see below). Another figurated, globe-shaped vessel was found at the shrine of Osangangan Obamalcin (cat. no. 62),featuring motifs similar to many of those on the Obalara's Land vessel discussed above.'" Above a raised band with interlace pattern that encircles the pot are the following motifs (starting with the shrine motif and moving counterclockwise):


a shrine with a thatched roofsupported by two posts, and with a skull at the base of each post and a ring/bracelet at the left corner of the roof;"째 a snake; a figure with its head missing; a large-bladed knife/sword with a handle; a decapitated figure with a striated body,lying face down,its wrists and elbows bound behind the back;two unfigurated stakes or perhaps Ogboni staffs(edan)suspended from a peg; a standing figure bound at the wrists, with large eyes and ears; an animal, perhaps a leopard, with its tail raised in the air; five double-spiraled motifs stacked vertically, possibly representing five ram heads; and a drum. Seven motifs on the Obalara pot(the shrine, ring, snake/whip?, knife, bound or wrapped human,edan, and drum)are the same or very similar on the Osangangan Obamakin vessel. Such vessels, meant to receive or hold liquid libations, provided an inventory of items used to perform ceremonies that activated awesome ase, the "power to bring something to pass." It seems likely that these and other vessels, whether placed on shrines or embedded in potsherd pavements, played their role in rituals similar to those depicted on them: rites of the ultimate sacrifice (human beings) announced and accompanied by the deep and resonant sounds of a large drum (agba) associated with deities, rulers, and the Ogboni/Osugbo. Such rituals were most likely associated with momentous events such as epidemics, droughts, floods, wars, annual rites of renewal and purification, or the transitions between sacred rulers. These intriguing images may be even more significant if what Willett suggests is true: that Osangangan Obamakin was also known as Obalufon I, an early ruler of Ife's indigenous populations associated with Obatala in creation myths."' Today, the annual festival known as Edi reenacts what oral accounts describe as a legendary

Fig. 32 Aroye pot, Ife, Nigeria, 12th-15th century CE.,terra-cotta, H:61 / 4 in.(15.9 cm)/ Department of Archaeology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife This elaborately decorated globe-shaped vessel,from the Aroye Compound near the Ife palace, displays an image in medium relief of a horned head with a tongue protruding from a gaping mouth. Encircling the vessel are sixteen rosettes(some broken)that had mica mirrors inset into their centers. Similar rosettes decorate a terracotta head that was found in the Akarabata district in the western part of Ife.


battle between Ife's indigenous population and a later dynasty said to have been founded by Obalufon Alayemore, also known as Obalufon II. Since those who represent the indigenous peoples in the Edi festival are associated with the Iwinrin and Obamakin groves that have been the sites ofso many terra-cotta works of art(such as cat. no. 54), Willett noted that "the art may really be that of the original indigenous population who were employed in the service of the new ruling class."42 I would suggest, however, that we use such oral accounts of the past with caution, as they are always subject to presentday political motivations and manipulations. In 1978, an elaborately decorated vessel (fig. 32) was uncovered by archaeologist Omotoso Eluyemi at the Aroye Compound not far from the Wunmonije Compound and the Ife palace. It includes a medium-relief image of a horned head with a tongue protruding from its gaping mouth. Encircling the vessel originally were sixteen rosettes with mirror insets of mica at their centers, a distinctive mixing of mediums like those already noted above in stone/iron, shards/stones, and clay/iron sculpture.'" The expressive face on this vessel is somewhat similar to the face of the figure with a simian-skull pendant found at Obalara's Land (fig. 29), and the textured overall cubic pattern on the vessel recalls headgear (probably beaded) on other Ife terra-cottas. According to oral traditions of the people at the Aroye Compound,their ancestor was a famous warrior and herbalist, and the pot may have been used to hold power materials. Perhaps at one time it was part ofan altar ensemble or buried in a pavement to serve as the "face"(ojubo) for worship. On the basis of style, the piece might be contemporaneous with Obalara, around the fourteenth century, and part of a long, continuous Yoruba tradition of figurated ritual pottery that continues today.'" IFE METALWORK The style of Ife's metalwork shows a remarkable uniformity close to datable terra-cottas from the Pavement Era.'" Although the dates of life works cast in metal have become more certain in recent years, the purposes of the life-size heads (cat. nos. 42-49) remain uncertain. One hypothesis was that they served as the funeral effigy (dignitas) of the ruler during royal second-burial ceremonies to symbolize the continuity of the office despite the death of the office holder.'" Naturalistic wooden figures (ako),such as those in Owo, may derive from a similar ako ceremony in Benin, or perhaps from hunters' funeral effigies in

The ako in Owo, however, were originally molded in clay over

straw, to be used for chiefs, or mothers ofchiefs, but not for royalty.'" There are other reasons to question the possibility of these perplexing metal heads being dignitas. As Yoruba have explained, no image ofa departed ruler would ever appear as part of second burials because rulers, being "deputies of the deities:' do not die. They disappear or descend "into the earth" like the deities.'" The only tradition of funeral effigies in Ife is reserved for hunters for whom an abstract image is sometimes made. Ancestral masqueraders such as Egungun are relatively recent among Ife peoples,just as they are among Ijebu or Owo. Egungun is an Oyo tradition, not an Ife or southern Yoruba As for the funeral effigies in Benin and Owo,these were either buried, destroyed, or allowed to disintegrate. Preservation would have been counterproductive to their purpose. Therefore it is unlikely that effigies would be created in a durable material such as copper-alloy. Rather, this metal medium suggests long-term and repeated use.



In addition, neither metal nor terra-cotta heads would be associated with royal graves of the departed because these do not exist: as several Yoruba have pointedly explained to me,"No one has ever seen the tomb of an oba." The thrust of this somewhat cryptic remark goes deep,for it reveals that the departure of a "deputy to the deities" is no ordinary matter. Rulers become orisa when they leave this world, and their physical remains, which contain an enormous amount of ase, are redirected and scattered to important sites and for important ritual purposes so they can serve useful, supportive, and protective functions for those they leave behind.''' The creation of a funeral effigy (dignitas), therefore,seems incompatible with Yoruba beliefs and practices surrounding the departures of sacred rulers. If the dignitas theory is questionable, what purpose might the life-size heads have served? I propose that the heads were probably part of annual rites of purification and renewal for the ruler and his people and, more precisely, for his spiritual head and beaded regalia. I argue that many heads, whether in copper, copper-alloy, or terra-cotta, were made to be freestanding, probably for display on an altar as we now know from the figurated vessel at Obalara's Land (fig. 30), where a realistic head with a conical headdress is flanked by two conical heads. Many of these life-size metal heads have holes for attachments, the smaller ones do not. The evidence for such attachments is the presence of thread, a nail, and beads in the holes. It seems logical that the heads were created to display actual regalia in a shrine context, or in performance, as in the case of the magnificent copper mask (cat. no. 37).1" This hypothesis is supported by a description of annual crown rituals in Okuku,a town northeast of Ife.'" The crowns are concealed in a box until the time of the ritual, much as the terra-cottas were kept at the Iwinrin Grove or the brass heads were buried at the Wunmonije Compound. The annual rites coincide with the new yam festival and include a ritualized battle between the chief priest (aworo)and the king,like that of the Edi festival in Ile. Afterward, the victorious king is carried on the shoulders of his supporters and returned to his palace. On the fifth day, all beaded royal regalia is displayed in an inner courtyard of the palace. Then the royal wives (olori) and children carry the regalia to the king's mother to be blessed. If she is deceased, the regalia is carried to her grave site, where prayers are offered. On the seventh day, the king brings a sacrificial offering to the shrine of his predecessors. Then he makes sacrifice to his own spiritual head, his on mu,in a special room within the palace where all the crowns are displayed. Sacrifices of snail, chameleon, pigeon, and goats are made as the king sits with the crowns. He must sit on the threshold of this room as each crown is placed on his head,starting with the earliest one, the mother crown (iya ade), as praise poems (oriki) are sung for each. It seems certain that annual royal rituals of renewal and purification involving crowns must have been momentous,elaborate occasions in the past, given the power embodied in the crowns themselves. The continuing importance of rituals in Okuku,and possibly lkirun (30 miles northeast of Ife),'" and perhaps other areas is testament to this. As the monarch sits on the threshold of the crown room,a place where medicines are buried, his head is covered with the containers of his predecessors as his own on inn is built up and re-charged. The freestanding life-size copper-alloy heads, and perhaps some of the terra-cotta ones as well, may have been commissioned by a wealthy, aesthetically minded Ooni of Ife to serve as mounts for the display of the royal regalia during these annual rites. They may have also served during periods of transition between rulers. Continued on page 162








Figure called "Obalufon"

Coronet ofan Obalufon devotee



Late 18th or 19th century

19th or 20th century

Copper alloy

Copper alloy

H: 13% in.(35 cm)

H:5% in.(13.5 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments, Nigeria, 59.26.2

Monuments, Nigeria, 74.1.1387

This figure ofa kneeling male member of the Ogboni/ Osugbo Society comes from the fiebu-Yoruba area. Its connection to Obalufon is uncertain. It may have been called by this name to suggest a tie with metal-casting, or with Ile and its mythic primacy in the region. The snakes emerging from the nose may express an emanation of special spiritual energy (asc). This image and idea are found among several kingdoms such as Owo,fiebu, and Benin, perhaps becoming more widespread as ritual specialists and political leaders moved and extended their influence from place to place.

lie's legendary fourteenth-century ruler Obalufon Alayemore,known as Obalufon II, is still an important focus of ritual and political life in Ife and beyond. Credited with being the founder of brass casting, he is honored today in some parts ofsouthwestern Nigeria in shrines, in regalia, and in sculptures that celebrate his legacy.





98 Olunba's crown Ijebu-Ode 18th-19th century Copper alloy H: 10% in.(26 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,68.3.58

99 Otunba's bracelet ljebu-Ode 18th-19th century Copper alloy H: 13/8 in.(3.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria,63.G.167 This brass crown and bracelet were part of the burial attire of an Ilebu•Ode chief who held the title of Otunba,"Right-Hand-of-the-Ruler."





Elephant head



9th-lOth century C.E.

9th- 10th century C.E.

Copper alloy

Copper alloy

H: 1'4 in.(3 cm)

H:3 in.(7.5 cm)

National Commission for Museums and

National Commission for Museums and

Monuments. Nigeria, 39.1.19

Monuments, Nigeria, 39.1.20

An extraordinary lost-wax casting industry developed more than a thousand years ago in Igbo-likwu, an area to the east of lie on the other side of the Niger River. Excavations there have revealed more than seven hundred metal objects, many of them in graves. The metals all came from a single source in the Benue valley. The delicate details on the Igbo-Ukwu castings have led some to suggest that latex rather than wax was used in forming the mold. Glass beads there and

The archaeological discovery of the burial of an Igbo-Ukwu king showed that the idea of divine rulers was well-developed in West Africa in the first millennium C.E. The deceased king was seated on a stool surrounded by sculpted swords, staffs, scabbards, and elephant tusks. He wore elaborate jewelry and was surrounded by more than a hundred thousand glass beads. This tiny elephant may represent a royal animal.

at lie have the same mineral composition (high-lime, high alumina),suggesting primary production in the region. The relationship, if any, between 1gbo-Ukwu and Ife is an important question in West African archaeology, one that can only be answered by new finds in the region.


102 Figure with striated marks Owo Ca. 15th century C.E. Terra-cotta H:3% in.(93 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 73.2.2 A striated head from Owo,a Yoruba center about sixty miles southeast of Ife, shows that the naturalism characteristic of Ife art was a style also found in other major centers of art production in Nigeria. It is not known whether the sculptors in Owo came from Ife, but archaeological investigations there confirm that sculptures depicting animals and humans were used in sacrificial contexts. The human victims were strangers, not local residents.



11.—Elhr cf"'N

A 0. 4


full am!detail views: 103 Malefigure Tada Early 14th-early 15th century CE. Copper alloy H:451 / 4 in.(115 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria, 79.R.20 This elaborately cast figure, which was kept in the Nupe settlement of Tada on the Niger River north of lie, wears a double cloth. The outer one is a richly decorated tunic with what seems to be embroidery of ribbons and birds. Over that he wears two fringed sashes flanked by multiple stands ofcowrie shells. A pectoral on his chest displays an image of a ram's head and three birds, and a pair of disks on his head feature horned heads with serpents emerging from the nostrils, all motifs found on sculptures and objects in lie, Owo,and Benin.



full and detail views: 104 Bowman Jebba Island Ca. 14th-15th century C.E. Copper alloy H:37% in.(95 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 79.R.19 'Ihe impressive figure shown here, from a shrine on the island of Jebba in the Niger River fifteen miles northwest of Tada, depicts a warrior or hunter, judging from his armorlike tunic and the knife and quiver that he carries on his back. The emblem on his forehead—a creature with long looping wings— has been identified as a bat; a similar image appears in the art of Benin. Ife, ljebu-Yoruba,Owo,and the Lower Niger region in ivory, bronze,and terra-cotta. Like owls, bats are liminal,threshold beings who are active at dusk and dawn,and who hang upside down when inactive. Given these extraordinary attributes, they are probably symbols of royals, who are themselves considered to be special mediators between cosmic realms.


,, or,



full and detail views: 105 Messengerfigure Benin Late 15th century C.E. Copper alloy H: 251 / 4 in.(64 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 54.15.8 This figure representing a royal messenger wears a cross around his neck that signifies the connection between Benin and Ile. As part of the king of Benin's installation ceremony,gifts were sent to the ruler of lfe, who then sent back a brass headdress,staff, and cross(a symbol of cosmic order) to signal the legitimacy of the new ruler.'The figure also bears cat-whisker facial marks that were found in some terra-cotta sculptures in Ife and that probably indicate that they were strangers in that city, coming either from Benin or other kingdoms in what is today western Nigeria.


106 Equestrianfigure Benin 16th—l7th century Copper alloy H:22% in.(57.5 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 59.23.7 The figure depicted here astride a horse has been variously identified as an emissary from the north;as Orunmila,deity of divination; as a blacksmith; and as Oranmiyan,the legendary leader who founded new dynasties at lie, at Benin,and at Oyo(another Yoruba center). Although horses do not survive for long in the forested regions of Benin or lie—due to the prevalence there of disease carried by the tsetse fly—they are associated with military power and specifically with Oranmiyan, who is said to have procured them from the north (perhaps from Kanem or Bornu). Today, the facial marks on the figure are often associated with Yagba or Nupe peoples.



107 Standingfigure Tada 16th-17th century Copper H: 221 / 4 in.(56.3 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Nigeria,79.R.22 The unusual coiffure and plain wrapper worn by this short, squat figure with large feet may indicate that it portrays a servant or messenger (entese or dad)of Yoruba royals. His hand gesture—open right hand holding the open left hand—has sometimes been interpreted as an Ogboni/Osugbo Society member's symbolic greeting, but the Ogboni greeting is left fist hiding the thumb of the right fist below. The style of this figure, different from other Ife castings, appears to be closer in style to some Benin works.



108 Stonefigure Esie Date unknown (before 1850) Soapstone H: 26 in.(66 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, HT 260 Another important (but little-known) West African culture, known as Oba, was situated northeast of lie, and may have had early trade relations with lie or Oyo. Many undated stone carvings were found in the town of Esie in the 1930s. When the carvings were discovered, they lay about in a clearing, like a disrupted cemetery. The pieces had been deliberately damaged long ago, perhaps in a war. When these figures were made is not known,but some of the Esie figures wear decorations similar to those on the lie terra-cottas.


109 Ododuwa helmet mask Benin 1735-50 Copper alloy H:283/4 in.(73 cm) National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 89.5.2 The distinguishing features of this helmet mask from Benin are its tall cone-shaped extension and its face with snakes emerging from the nose(imagery that is also common in art from ljebu, Owo,and lie). The kingdom of Benin came into primacy in the area south of lie after lie's decline. This mask is identified with Oduduwa (spelled Ododuwa in Benin). the early leader who was later deified and who is credited with bringing sacred rulership to lie and eventually to later dynasties, including Benin.



Continued from page 143

Further support for this theory may come from the installation rites of kings in Benin. There,early in the morning,the prince(the Edaiken) kneels on a pile of cowries to receive his crown:"In front of the Edaiken a terracotta head,from which a bronze one would later be cast, held his crown of coral beads."55 After one of the king-makers called his new name for a fourth time, the Edaiken responded, and the Oliha, head of the king-makers, put the crown on his head and proclaimed him king. On the Obalara's Land vessel (fig. 30), the two conical heads symbolic of the spiritual head or destiny (oni inn) and a realistic one with headdress representing the outer physical head (oni ode) may thus be understood as representing an altar to a person's head and being or, more specifically, the altar for a ruler's on and beaded regalia. Three other features on the metal heads require some explanation. All the heads without striations have two lines of holes in the face, running along the jawline and upper lip (see cat. nos. 37,43,46,48,and 49). Evidence indicates that instead of being used for the insertion of hair to create a beard and mustache, these holes served to attach a beaded veil for the lower face.'56 A black bead was found lodged in a cheek hole of one of the copper alloy heads, and traces of black pigment on the upper lip ofsome heads were also found. A very fine terra-cotta mask,almost identical to the Fig. 33 Face mask. lie. Nigeria. I1th-12th century CE.,terra-cotta. H.8% in.(22.2 cm)/ Department of Archaeology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ifc This unique terra-cotta sculpture was excavated at Obalufon's Compound in Ife in 1983. The slits below the eyes indicate that it was designed to be used as a face mask. In this respect, it is similar to the copper face mask that is said to represent the Ooni Obalufon (cat. no. 37). The crest on the front of the crown is missing. The cross-hatching within a clearly defined raised border and the grayish color of the lower portion of the face strongly suggest a face veil, since the face of a sacred ruler was not to be seen on ritual occasions.

so-called Obalufon mask of nearly pure copper,seems to confirm the use of a lower face covering (fig. 33).157 The area is defined by cross-hatching within a clearly defined raised border—a lower face covering, not a beard. Another important work that supports this interpretation is the small bronze figure ofan Ife ruler with paired bowlike pendants,elaborate beaded regalia, facial striations, and an edge ofa veil,found at the 1 which was modeled after the standing Ife royal figure palace in Benin City (fig. 34)," and the half figure from 1A'unmonije (cat. nos. 3 and 38). In the figure from Benin, there is a raised line running from below the nose to the ears, much like the upper line of holes on the life-size Ife heads and the Obalufon mask; it may represent the edge of a face covering. An impressive bronze head that may have originated among the Ijebu Yoruba'5"also shows such a veil with a series of cross-hatched lines over the exact same area as in the terra-cotta mask.'6° Yoruba traditions concerning rulers support this interpretation. For example,the Ooni holds a fan over his mouth when eating, and rulers often cover their mouths when speaking because of the potentially dangerous ase of their spoken words. Nineteenth-century evidence of the power associated with the mouth and spoken words comes from the rulers of the Yoruba-related Itsekiri of Warn, where the Olu "wears around his neck a number of coral-bead necklaces,and in addition a sort of mouth-cover made of golden damask; this is believed to be a substitute for the original silken screen behind which the Olu-in-Council used to speak through his spokesman,as in the early days it was forbidden to see his mouth."61 Among Yoruba-speaking peoples, the beaded crown with veil(ade nla) is the principal symbol of a ruler's authority. According to the Orangun-Ila, the crown is an orisa.'62 When the ade nla is placed upon the ruler's head, his/her on mu (inner head) becomes one with all those who have reigned before, who have become orisa. Concealment constitutes heightened spirituality. It is a way ofconveying the ineffable qualities and boundless powers of the sacred person of the oba. The veil, therefore, is a mask, hiding the face of the oba so that the power of the crown may be seen. It also diffuses the penetrating, piercing gaze of one whose power is like that ofa deity. More



important, as a person's ibori is guarded within its "house of the head"(ile-ori) made of cloth, cowrie, and leather (fig. 27),so too the ruler's inner, spiritual person is protected, enclosed within the enveloping conical form and beaded fringe of the crown. For Yoruba peoples, the ase of the crown is awesome. When the chiefs kneel before their crowned ruler, they greet the crown and the one who wears it with the salutation, Kabiyesi Oba alaase ekeji orisa!("Your Highness! The ruler's power is next to that of the gods!"). Another enigmatic feature is the striated lines on the faces of some of the heads, and their absence on those with holes, whether on the face or neck. Such marks on these Ife heads have been interpreted in various ways. One explanation is that they may represent a permanent transformation of a person into an oba—a form of masking that uses flesh as its medium. Another suggests this may indicate a temporary transformation using an extract from the blister beetle (Cantharidae) to raise welts on the face, similar to those on one terra-cotta head (cat. no. 55). A description of this process was told to Willett by the Ooni of Ife.163 Alternatively, the striations may represent facial paint, as still applied in initiation ceremonies for the deities and for Ifa rites ofindividuation,'" which display remarkable parallels with those for rulers. The striking correlation between the absence of facial striations on the heads with holes(and their presence on ones without holes) raises further questions about the relationship of these lines to attachments. Might they refer to different stages in enthronement rites? Might the lines imply veils not depicted? Garlake suggests that such veils of beads"were almost certainly attached to the holes on the hair-lines and round the mouth" and that "the striations on many of the faces can be interpreted ... not as scarifications or aesthetic devices, but as the shadows cast by veils ofstrings of beads."65 Finally, around the neck of most of the life-size heads (all the ones shown here except cat. no.49) are four larger holes. These may have been used to attach the head to an armature to create a full effigy, according to Willett;'66 yet if these heads were not used as part ofsecond-burial effigies but were used on their own in other rituals, what were the holes on the neck used for? It seems plausible that they, like the holes in the face, were intended to hold other royal accoutrements,specifically heavy neck rings. Several heads show such a ring positioned exactly where the holes are on the metal heads: the terra-cotta head in fig. 26; one of the heads from Obalara; and the two heads on globeshaped pots from Obaluru, Ife, discussed above. Furthermore,these unfigurated rings

Fig. 34 Miniature figure in Ife style. Benin.ca. 15th century CE.,copper alloy, H:43 / 4 in.(12 cm)/ National Museum, Benin City, Nigeria Ibis small bronze figure of an Ife ruler,found at the palace in Benin City, features elaborate beaded regalia, paired bowlike pendants on his chest, facial striations, and a raised line from below the nose to the ears (probably indicating the edge of a veil or mouth/face covering). It may have been modeled after the standing Ife king figure and half-figure from Wunmonije Compound (cat. nos. 3 and 38).

may be the prototype for later, more elaborate rings (see cat. nos. 86,87,and fig. 35).'6 ' Such rings,found among both the Yoruba and the Edo in Benin, may have served to display heads, whether actual or metal, of rulers or of those sacrificed during important rites—a hypothesis strengthened by the presence of a ring in the pot from Obalara's Land and another from Osangangan Obamakin (see fig. 30 and cat. no. 62).'" Further evidence comes from a site at Ayetoro,in Ife, where a terra-cotta head of a sacrificed animal was found with a "massive bronze neck-ring."169 The recurrent images of decapitated human sacrifices on these bronze rings certainly support such a theory. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Benin bronze heads, the rings may have become figurated flanges."° One other theory that has been proposed by some scholars as a possible purpose for the life-size heads and copper mask is that they were used for rites of transition between reigns or coronations."' Not all lie metalwork has been found in Ife. A few pieces have turned up far from their place of creation, such as the small standing figure with paired bowlike pendants



Fig. 35 Ring, fiebu, 18th century,copper alloy. H: approx. 4-7 in.(approx. 10-18 cm) This copper-alloy ring features a figure in full regalia— chest baldrics, necklace, bracelets, anklets, wrapper knotted on the hip, and a staff in the right hand. Other motifs include decapitated and bound victims, vultures devouring corpses, gagged heads, turtles, and skulls.

found at the palace in Benin mentioned above (fig. 34). Another, an exquisite copperalloy casting ofa seated male (cat. 36), was found in Tada,a Nupe settlement on the bank of the Niger River not far from Oyo-Ile. It is undoubtedly of Ife manufacture, as is evident from its style and metal composition. The striated patterns on its torso are identical to those on a half figure from Wunmonije Compound and several other terra-cotta works from Ife (cat. no. 38). The knotting of the garment on the left hip also indicates that it is of Ife origin. Thermoluminescence dating places it from about 1300 C.E., well within the Pavement Era. Another Tada figure (cat. no. 107), a copper-alloy standing figure with broad feet and thick legs and dressed in a simple wrapper, displays a shaved head except for a tuft of hair on the left side. Such a coiffure may identify the person as a servant or messenger (emese or ilari) of Yoruba royals. His hand gesture has been interpreted as the symbolic greeting of an Ogboni/Osugbo Society member, but it is probably not. The Ogboni greeting is left fist hiding the thumb of the right fist below—sacred and secret left, over secular right (fig. 36). Here,the open right hand holds the open left hand. The style of this figure and of a companion with a staff are dissimilar from other Ife castings and appear to be closer in style to some Benin works. Some of these so-called Tsoede bronzes may have been made in Owo.'72 Certainly they have motifs that appear in Owo, but they also appear in Benin, Ile, and Ijebu. Given the fact that Ijebu was a major center of metal casting(and Owo a major center of ivory carving), it seems more likely that these Tada and Jebba works come from either Benin or Ijebu.



How did these statues get to Tada? lie stone, terra-cotta, and metal objects were scattered at various shrines, many at the perimeters of the city itself, or near city gates, much the way the body parts of former rulers were distributed to various sacred sites around the realm. In such instances they were used for protective, empowerment purposes. Therefore, it seems possible that representations of rulers, court officials, or regalia serving as symbols(as well as embodiments)of authority would have been sent to important sites to mark political boundaries or agreements. Many migration myths in Ijebu speak offounders carrying metal objects as symbols of their authority to establish new communities. According to Benin traditions, the Ogane/Ogene (interpreted by most to be the Ooni of lie) sent regalia to the new Benin monarch as part of installation rites.'" It is likely that lie sent objects in other directions as well, especially to the growing Yoruba city-state in Oyo-Ile situated near the Niger River. The Nupe kingdom was just across the Niger River, which for a time probably served as a natural boundary demarcating "spheres of influence." During the early sixteenth century, Nupe began to expand its territory. The impressive seated figure from Ife, as well as other Tada and Jebba works from Benin or Ijebu (cat. nos. 103 and 104), were regarded as markers of Ife, Oyo-Ile, Benin, or Ijebu authority and were probably "appropriated" by the Nupe when they forced the Oyo-Yoruba to abandon their city and set up a government in exile in Igboho.''' LATER WORKS Stone sculpture continued to be made in the vicinity of Ife over several centuries, one

Fig. 36 The Apena (chief steward of the Ogboni/

example being an eighteenth/nineteenth-century work from Igbajo, thirty-five miles

Osugbo Society) is seen here giving the Ogboni

north of Ife (fig. 37).'" This sculpture most likely served as an image in honor of the

greeting—left fist hiding the thumb of his right hand

orisa Esu/Elegba, guardian of crossroads and deity of the principle of uncertainty, based

below—to convey the sanctity of secret and sacred matters. Imosam Ijebu, Nigeria. 1986

on the remnants of sacrificial offerings and icons of a horn, club, and triple-crested and tufted coiffure. The massing of the head,shoulders, and pectoral muscles as well as the shape and size of the eyes recall the style of wood sculpture in this region that dates to the nineteenth centuryP The creation of three such images in Igbajo at approximately the same time indicates a particular set of historical circumstances. Esu/Elegba, as the guardian of markets and roads, would have been especially crucial in times of political or economic unrest. Images and rites in his honor might have been prescribed as a means of preventing disaster. Such an era occurred when the Oyo Yoruba expanded from lbadan into ljesa/Ekiti territories(between about 1860 and 1886), during which a deep gash was said to have been inflicted in one of the stone figures in Igbajo. This might suggest a mid-nineteenth-century date for this Igbajo figure, or, alternatively, it might be associated with the boundary established between the Oyo and Benin kingdoms in Ottin sometime in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.r7 Igbajo, which is near Otun, may have been the site of sacred shrines that marked the boundary, to be guarded by substances and forms evocative of(and invoking) the ase of the patron of paths, Esu/Elegba, and his companion,Ogun,the deity of war.'" The artistic achievements in Ife between 1000 and 1400 C.E.show that it was an era of excellence. lie's artistic traditions, although they have certainly changed over the centuries, are still in evidence today. Terra-cotta figurated vessels, wood sculptures, elaborate shrine paintings, beadwork in stone and glass, metal castings, forged ironwork, and stonework continue to be created there. The styles have altered, as one might expect, but their underlying religious concepts persist.



Ife flourished because of its local stature and its trading links with peoples far distant. The flowering of art in Ife seems to have coincided with the early expansion of Oyo.The fortifications at Oyo and their dates(eleventh-twelfth centuries and possibly earlier) lend strong support to this theory. Although eleventh-century Ife may be heir to an ancient terra-cotta tradition, the flowering of its casting tradition must have depended on longdistance trading ties. The growing evidence of major trading, state-formation, and art at the inland delta of the Niger at Jenne-Jeno by 1000 C.E., and of a major urban center at Old Oyo about the same time, suggests one possible trade route.1 ' 9 This city-state probably served as a trading center for goods coming down the Niger River from the Songhai empire which at its apex, around 1400-1500 C.E., reached quite close to OyoIle. Goods,especially shea butter, copper, salt, and luxury items such as beads, would have been exchanged for kola, cloth, ivory, enslaved persons, and forest products. The areas to the north were important to Ife because of the Oyo-Niger River-SonghaiSaharan trading routes, but not because of any direct North African or Mediterranean presence. Such an unsupportable hypothesis has been based partly on the erroneous interpretation of the "whiteness" of Obatala as somehow associated with his skin color! s° As noted above, white is a color of deep symbolic and ritual significance for Obatala/Orisanla, expressing coolness, patience, wisdom, having nothing to do with 1111111MEL-._

supposed "racial" origins. And now we know that the extensive glass bead industry in Ife was based on working materials indigenous to sub-Saharan West Africa. Kingdoms to the southeast were also important to Ife. The art in the Yoruba city-

Fig. 37 Figure of deity Esu/Elegba, Igbajo, Nigeria, 18th-19th century, stone, H: 25 in.(63.5 cm)/ Fine

state of Owo,while it may have exhibited strong Benin influences, has now been shown

Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum Purchase.

to have much closer and earlier links with Ife. All the motifs formerly linking OWO

Salinger Fund, 74.6

art with Benin—such as the leopard, a snake above the altar canopy, expressive facial

This stone figure is probably one of three from the town

qualities, open mouths, keloid forehead marks, and snakes issuing from nostrils—are

of lgbajo, about 35 miles northeast of lie. The remnants

present together in Ife art and at dates earlier than those in art from Owo.'s' These

of sacrificial offerings and such iconographic features as a crested coiffure, club,and horn suggest its association

clearly indicate a closer relationship between Ife and OWO than previously suspected,

with Esu/Elegba, divine mediator and guardian of

suggesting perhaps closer early ties between Ife and Benin as well, although we are still

crossroads and markets. In addition, it may have served

uncertain about the nature and direction of these artistic interactions.

as a boundary marker.

Ife was a thriving metropolis. Its layout suggests an orderly city plan with multiple courtyard buildings in alignment. Hinged doors set in stone sockets opened onto these courtyards, many of them embellished with decorative pavements, pottery mosaic walls, and semicircular raised altars arrayed with a great variety of pottery and figurative sculpture, much of it painted in strong,symbolically potent colors—red (pupa), black (dudu),and white (funfun). This artistic wealth was not restricted to leaders or royalty, but was commonplace in a variety of both sacred and domestic contexts. Individuals of high rank, whether priests, chiefs, or rulers, are depicted in a naturalistic style that is strongly conventionalized. Heads and faces are emphasized,open to full view. Postures and gestures are both formal and more relaxed, as seen in the seated Tada figure (cat. no. 36). The sense ofcomposed openness and directness in these works suggests that during Ife's florescence, rulers may not have been as removed or restricted as they were in later centuries, when they became virtual prisoners in their own palaces, hidden from view except on certain ritual occasions, and then seen only dimly through beaded veils or seated in the shadows behind screens. In contrast to the composed elegance of such subjects are images of the unusual or extraordinary: the deformed or diseased (see cat. nos. 90-92 and 95), the otherworldly



Fig. 38 Pair of figures(edan Osugbo 10gboniD, ljebu, Nigeria, I9th-20th century,copper alloy, H: 11 in. (27.9 cm)/ The Stanley Collection, University of Iowa Museum of Art, x1986.302 Linked male and female figures in bronze are the symbols of the Ogboni/Osugbo Society, the association of male and female elders whose moral and political authority equals that of rulers and chiefs. Their heads, not their ascetic bodies, radiate with power, for their authority is the wisdom of those who have followed the ritual way of life. However,the gender of each of the figures is clear, for it is thought that the meaning of life is to be found in the coming together of opposites. The left fist over the right is the sign of Ogboni/Osugbo membership.

(see cat. nos. 81,82,and 93), the doomed (see cat. nos.62, 78, 79,83,84,88,and 89), 1 Although and the outsider or foreigner (possibly portrayed in cat. nos. 59 and 60)." the subject matter of these sculptures may differ, its style of depiction does not. All are rendered in naturalistic ways, yet idealized in the sense of expressing "perfectly" and appropriately their true essence (fiva). That is their great beauty and evocative power (ilva rewa). Yet not all Ile works are rendered in naturalistic ways. Cone-shaped sculptures with realistic or minimal facial features were used together with naturalistic heads(see cat. nos. 63-65 and figs. 30 and 31). Such striking juxtapositions demonstrate an openness toward radically different approaches to conveying ideas visually, conceptual as well as perceptual. They appear to co-exist in order to present the inner and outer dimensions of existence. The inner sphere is spiritual and invisible, given form only by artists using their fertile imaginations. The outer aspect is the physical, tangible aspect of the human presence, proclaimed by artists in their representation of visible form as perceived through their senses. We are witnesses to expressions of on mu and on ode in Ife art, and in Yoruba art generally. Were the creators of these exquisite works women or men? One analysis of sculpting technique used in the terra-cottas suggested that the artists were male.'" This hypothesis is based on a comparison with the smoothing of exterior and interior of pottery done by



women. This surface treatment is not evident in the sculptures that have rough interiors. However, at least one naturalistic head at Obalara has such a smoothed interior.'" In any case, it seems unlikely that this difference can determine the gender of the artist, only that pots and sculpture serve different functions. The Yoruba tradition that women, not men, work clay for both sacred and secular purposes is deeply rooted, which suggests that women created the lie terra-cottas. It does seem likely that men did the stone and iron work as well as the castings in copper alloys, based on equally strong traditions of men as sculptors ofstone, metal, and also wood. If these suggestions are correct, then who made the clay cores over which wax would have been modeled to create the casting? It is possible that women did these, and then the final modeling in wax was performed by men before being invested and cast in metal. The instances in Yoruba art production where women and men combine their efforts to produce the final work— for example, Gelede and Egungun masking ensembles and mat-weaving—support this hypothesis. The theme of cooperation between the sexes is vividly portrayed by the interlocking couple in metal from Ita Yemoo (fig. 3)and the edan pairs of the Ogboni/ Osugbo (see fig. 38).'" Artistic efforts done jointly by both men and women cannot be ruled out in the case of Ife art. ENVOI The Yoruba describe their culture as "a river that is never at rest."'The metaphor is apt, for it conveys the Yoruba sense of continuous dynamic change. I.ife flows with multiple currents,some that run deep and change slowly, such as the fundamental principles called ipilese, and others that may bring rapid, turbulent change. It is not an image that implies a sense of fate and helplessness. On the contrary, Yoruba people have a lively sense of the individual's obligation to make life meaningful by drawing upon one's own creative capacities(oni mu and ase) and acknowledging with sacrifice(ebo) those powers that pervade the universe of one's experience. Sacrifice is not only identified with the offering of a kola nut or the blood of an animal on the altar of an orisa, ancestor or spirit. It is also present in songs of praise or supplication, in the reverberating rhythms of a drum, the steps of a dance,the vibrant colors of a shrine painting, or the subtle shapes of a sculpture. It is the artist who is sensitive to the currents of life and who captures the essential nature(iwa) of the variety of lives lived to create works of beauty(ewa) that evoke the performative power and authority (ase) by which they are lived. It is through the imaginative creations of the artist that persons see themselves and their world anew and are empowered to respond creatively to the world in which they live.




This essay for the present catalogue, which accompanies the exhibition Dynasty and Divinity: lie Art in Ancient Nigeria, organized by the Museum for African Art, New York,and the FundaciOn Marcehno Botin, Santander, Spain, is largely a revision of two chapters(and a small excerpt from another chapter) in the exhibition catalogue Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought(New York: Center for African Art, 1989), and excerpts from my essay in the exhibition catalogue Beads, Body, and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe(Los Angeles: U.C.L.A. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1998, pp. 16-51). The principal source is one of the chapters I wrote for the 1989 exhibition catalogue (chapter 2,"Ife: Origins of Art and Civilization," pp. 45-75), revised and enlarged for the present catalogue. I thank Rowland Abiodun and John Pemberton for their original contributions as co-authors of"The Yoruba World" chapter in the 1989 exhibition catalogue(pp. 13-42), here revised and condensed for part of this essay, and the last two paragraphs of that catalogue's "Conclusion: The River that Never Rests"(p. 234), presented as "Envoi" at the end of this essay. I have tried to review the most important literature that has appeared since 1989, but there may be other sources of which I am unaware or unable to consult at this time. The mysteries surrounding the arts, histories, and culture of lfe persist, and efforts to illuminate these will take the concerted efforts of many scholars-Yoruba and non-Yoruba-working in specific disciplines as well as in trans-disciplinary ways. I am always reminded and humbled by these Yoruba words of wisdom:"It is more than seven that follows six." I hope readers will find this essay useful, as well as provocative, and will find that it deepens our imo, oye, all ogbon ("knowledge, understanding, and wisdom") about the extraordinary cultural and artistic achievements of Ife. Mojuba: I want to express my deepest appreciation, and extend special thanks, to all my Yoruba teachers, mentors, elders, friends, and students who so generously shared their knowledge and wisdom since I began this journey in 1964, who include: all the artists; the priests and priestesses of the orisa; the Ogboni/Osugbo members at lbese, Imodi-Nlosan,and ljebu-Ode; the rulers in Egbado, Awori, Ketu, Ohori,and ljebu; Rowland Abiodun, James Adetoye, Ade Adeyemi, Chief Fagbemi Ajanku,Samuel Akinfenwa, Bolaji Campbell, David Doris, Rhoda Johnston, Foluso Longe, John Mason, Nloyosore Okediji, Kolawole Ositola, Raimi Taiwo,and,for her loving support, Sarah K. Khan. Note about the references to published sources in the endnotes below: these are keyed to the Bibliography, with only author's name and the year given in the endnotes; where two publications from the same year by an author are cited, they are distinguished in the endnotes by "a" or "b" after the year, with "a" referring to the first one listed in the Bibliography.

5. It is important to note that the terms oba and ooni (titles of Ile rulers) are non-gendered. There were both queens and kings among the rulers at Ile, as well as in other Yoruba realms over the centuries. 6. Many of these myths mention movement from the "east" westward to the Ife area. Such suggestions may have been shaped by relatively recent cultural, political, and religious factors and not by any consideration of date, however meager. For example, many writers have mistakenly linked Yoruba history with that of Islam, as in one myth where Oduduwa is described as a son of Lamurudu,a king of Mecca, and is said to have migrated to Ile-Ife. Others have sought without evidence to associate the Yoruba with Egyptian or Meroitic civilizations. However, another hypothesis may warrant serious investigation: Bascom has suggested that the Yoruba may have originally come from the west and moved eastward, perhaps moving along or south of the Niger River valley and then into the forested savanna and rain-forest areas where they have lived since at least the first millennium CE.;see Bascom 1969a. I.inguistic data may support such a theory. The Kwa branch of West African languages, which evolved over a long period of time, includes Akan, Aja, Ga, Ewe, Fon,Gun,and Yoruba;see Armstrong 1971. The locales of all these peoples are to the west of present-day southwestern Nigeria. While other Kwa languages(Edo, ho, Nupe, Igbirra, Idoma, Igala, and Igbo are north,south and east), there appear to be more Kwa languages west ofsouthwestern Nigeria than east of it. In addition,several ancient groups of Yoruba-speakers,such as the Ana in central Togo,and others in Ghana and Benin (R.P.B., i.e., Republique Populaire du Benin), are far west of Ile. This issue demands serious study to help answer many other questions. 7. Accounts of the divisions and conflicts between the original divinities and their usurpers are very widespread in Yoruba traditions. On the Obatala/ Oduduwa conflict, see Beier 1956; Idowu 1962/1995: 23; Fabunmi 1969; and Awolalu 1979: 27. For information on a similar conflict enacted at Ife in the Edi festival, see Beier 1982: 106-7. 8. Beier 1956 and H. J. Drewal 1989. For a thorough analysis of gender issues in Yoruba ritual practice and art, see M.T. Drewal 1989/1992. 9. See Lapin 1980; and Abiodun 1983: 21-22. 10. For fuller discussions of the relationships between verbal and visual arts among the Yoruba and the concept of opi-inu, see Lapin 1980, Abiodun 1983, Abiodun 1987,and Drewal and Drewal 1987. 11. M.T. Drewal 1977. 12. For a related discussion of Yoruba oral history, see Peel 1984.

I. Ife ondaiye, ibi oju ti into wa; Akinjogbin 1967:41.

13. The importance of creativity in Yoruba ritual practice has been documented in M.T. Drewal 1989a; see also Pemberton 1989.

2. On the problems with thermoluminescence dating,see Willett 1984:87-100; and for a discussion of the challenges of dating Ife art,see Garlake 2002: 134-35.

14. For critiques of hierarchical structuring in writing about the pantheon of Yoruba gods, see Pemberton 1975, Ojo 1978,and Barber 1981.

3. Variants of the creation myth can be found in Crowther 1852; Johnson 1897/1921 (1966); Beier 1956; Verger 1957; Crowder 1962/1978: 51; Aderibigbe 1965: 186; Fabunmi 1969; Smith 1969/1988: 97; Willett 1970: 303-6; Biobaku 1973; Eyo 1974b; and 1.awal 1974.

15. On Ifa and Orunmila and the divination system in general,see Abimbola I975a and b, 1976,and 1977; and also Bascom I969a and b.

4. Unfortunately, it is not possible to explore in this essay the issue of the relationship between Ife and Nok(500 B.C.E.-200/500 C.E.), another culture with a tradition of terra-cotta sculptures, located about 300 miles northeast of Ife. It should be noted, however, that the perceived similarities of the two in technique,style, and iconography remain unconvincing as evidence for direct historical and artistic links. Only such complex,imaginary,and arbitrary configurations as a "snake-winged bat" or "self-dompting fish-legged figure" %you'd suggest direct connections. Despite further impressive evidence presented by Willett in his article"A Missing Millennium?"(Willett 1986), there remains the question of what constitutes "Nok," as well as the time, geographical locale, and style gaps between Nok and Ile; see also Willett 1971/2002: 64-72. It is more useful at present to consider them as separate traditions; see also Bitiyong 1981.

16. Mason 1988: 16. 17. On the importance of the metaphor of the "journey" in Yoruba thought and in ritual practice, see M.T. Drewal 1989/1992. 18. Drewal and Drewal 1987. 19. The literature on the concept of ase is extensive. See Bascom 1960: 408; Prince 1960: 66; Verger 1964: 15-19; Ayoade 1979: 51; Fagg and Pemberton 1982: 52f1; and Drewal and Drewal 1983a: 5-6,73ff. 20. For a full discussion and other examples of distributed power and the essentially open nature of Yoruba society, which differs from much of the standard literature on Yoruba social organization, see Drewal and Drewal 1978 and idem 1987. 21. Drewal and Drewal 1987: 225-51.



22. For more on segmented/senate composition in Yoruba art, see Drewal and Drewal 1987; H. J. Drewal 1988; and M. T. Drewal 1988. 23. Kolawole Ositola, conversation with the author, July 1982; and Mason, conversation with the author, March 1989. 24. Ositola, conversation with the author, July 1982. 25. The dating and periodization of lie art is fraught with many difficulties. Many finds were accidental, and up to 1978 only seven were scientifically controlled excavations. Moreover, many of the sites were secondary sites, not primary sites-that is, they remained in their original form but continued to be used,since periodic displacements of people and shrines at lie resulted in the use, removal, burial, excavation and later re-use of objects in different contexts. Ekpo Eyo noted that at the three primary sites(Ha Yemoo,Obalara, and Lafogido),"sculptures have always been found in association with pottery pavements," and he used these pavements to provide a frame for dating lie art; Eyo 1977: 20. This is an approach I have adopted here. However, using the potsherd/stone pavements to anchor the art also poses problems, since they seem to have been made at different times. Despite these challenges, there is general agreement among archaeologists (Willett, Eyo, Garlake, and Shaw)that the art of lie was created between about the tenth/eleventh and the sixteenth centuries(900/1000 C.E.-1500/1600 C.E.) with the greatest concentration of detailed naturalistic clay sculpture in the fourteenth, and the naturalistic metal work (copper and brass) perhaps slightly later (ca. 1400/1500 CI.).

38. Eyo 1977: 20; and Eyo and Willett 1980: 10. 39. Willett mentions them being found to the west in Ketu and the Kabrai area of Togo.and to the south at lkeja near Lagos and Benin; Willett 1967: 104. A systematic survey and analysis of these pavements could trace the extent and nature of Ife/Yoruba influence. 40. For a twentieth-century example,see Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: fig. 269 on p. 226. 41. One fragmented lie vessel actually depicts a "face of worship." Arrayed around its rim are eyes, ears, and mouth. It was collected by Frobenius and is now in Berlin. 42. For an artist's reconstruction of a house in Ife, based on archaeological work at Obalara and Wove Asiri, see Garlake 1990: 133. 43. Garlake 1974 and 1977. On the importance of the cardinal directions in Ira art and ritual, see H. J. Drewal 1987. 44. See Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: chapter 5. 45. Ozanne 1969: 29.

26. Shaw and Daniels 1984.

46. Ibid.: 36-37; and Willett 1970: 320-21.

27. Shaw 1978: 49.

47.1n the early sixteenth century, Portuguese explorer Duarte Pacheco Pereira described the ljebu capital as "a large town called C;eebuu, surrounded by a very large ditch"; Pacheco,quoted in Hodgkin 1960:92.

28. This is according to evidence at Woye Asiri, lie; see Garlake 1977. 29. Ozanne 1969. 30. Willett 1971. However,Shaw gives a series of radiocarbon dates at Orun Oba that fall between 600 C.E. and 1000 C.E.; Shaw 1978: 161. There is still little known about lie before the Early Pavement Era (i.e., before 1000 C.E.). For some time, archaeologists doubted that Stone Age humans could have penetrated and survived in the rain-forest areas before the advent of iron or other metal tools (see Livingston 1958: 551,and Gray 1962). The widespread occurrence of ground stone axes in southern Nigeria and extensive excavations at Iwo Eleru near Akure,southeast of Ile-Ife(Shaw and Daniels 1984), suggest otherwise. We believe that yam cultivation in southern Nigeria goes back 4,000-5,000 years, and many yam rituals today have prohibitions against the use of iron tools, which suggests pre-Iron Age origins(Shaw 1978: 65). The yam economy may be another factor contributing to the cone icon-the yam heap as cosmic cone. The development of agriculture, availability of water, and abundance of game/protein (including the large snails that have long been prevalent in southern Nigerian forests) may have been responsible for high population densities, the emergence of larger social and political systems. and elaborated trading networks that fostered the artistic tradition considered here. 31. Abraham 1958: 378. 32. Only systematic archaeological research can answer our questions about Africa in the first millennium C.E. The difficulties attending the reconstruction of Ile art history are compounded by the fact that the city was abandoned repeatedly in the eighteenth century and at least twice in the nineteenth century due to wars. There seem to have been earlier disruptions as well, for there is a definite gap in art production from about the sixteenth to the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. We are also hampered by the long-standing tradition of burying, then unearthing and reburying venerated objects over the centuries, making historical reconstruction very problematic because few primary sites have been found. 33. Bernard Fagg,cited in Allison 1968: 14. 34. Willett 1967:80. Another large lump offused iron was discovered about 27 1/2 miles north of lie in a forest grove between Igbetti and Old Oyo;Shaw 1978: 141. 35. Allison 1968.

36. Ibid.: 17. 37. These shrines were filled with sacred objects and ritual pots and appear to indicate a traditional placement pattern that may reveal important archaeological sites in the future. Other early works include a conical head in Efon, northeast of lie, and stones in Erumu, northwest of lie. See Willett 1967: 79-82; and Allison 1968: plates 1, 2,4, 10, I I.

48. See Ozanne 1969: 35. 49. Ibid. 50. At Oyo-lle, extensive walls and gates seem to date to the same period as those at lie, or earlier. Agbaje-Williams and Onyango-Abuje obtained four dates,two about 800 C.E., and two about Ilth- I 2th centuries; AgbajeWilliams and Onyango-Abuje 1981: 1-11. The inner wall without a ditch probably enclosed the palace. The city wall with a ditch enclosed an oval space approximately one mile from north to south,and less than one mile from east to west. 51. For discussions on the nature of Yoruba armament and warfare, see Smith 1967. 52. Conversations with the author by various kings, priests, and elders in southwestern Nigeria in 1975, 1977-78,and 1982. 53. Willett interprets this figure as female, but the five-tiered headdress seems to appear on sculptures of both women and men. 54. See note 62 below. 55. This is based on field discussions with an herbalist/diviner who showed me a sanctified stool used by his barren wife to help her conceive. 56. Fagg 1960. At Benin during the coronation and rites of kingship, a messenger comes with certain gifts from lie that confirm the new ruler. Those items are carried in a cylindrical container(ckpokin)from which the throne of the Benin monarch may be adapted, along with supports for the king's armstall, thinner cylinders sometimes covered in brass; see Ben-Amos 1980: 84-51,and Nevadomsky 1983: fig. 4. 57. See Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: fig. 58. 58. See Bascom 1969b: 82-83, pl. 21a. 59. Eyo and Willett 1980: pl. 55. Accompanying the quartz stool in fig. 21 is a smaller, four-legged, rectangular granite-gneiss stool with a slightly concave top. As with the looped elephant-trunk handle of the larger stool, this one's overall organic shape suggests the body of an animal. Another stool has double loops that appear to represent human legs or hands (Willett 1967: fig. 15). Some sculptures depicting stools were made of other materials as well. The terra-cotta version shown in fig. 22 represents a stool probably


made of wood and decorated with metal bands into which were set glass bosses, remnants of which were found in the Iwinrin Grove; Willett 1967: 82.

84. Horton 1979: 101, citing Abimbola. 85. Horton 1979:97.

60. Rowland Abiodun,conversation with the author, July 1986.

86. Garlake 1990: 136.

61. Ritual procedures of elevation are widespread. At particular moments, participants' feet must be off the ground either by wearing special footwear, like the beaded boots/sandals of kings, or by standing on specially prepared mats. Altars-"seats" of the gods-arc also elevated.1 he elevation of feet may explain the ring on the second toe of the left foot shown in some lie terra-cotta fragments(Willett 1967: plates 52,54), and oral traditions that speak of the big toe as an orisa.

87. Willett 1971. 88. Carey 1991:9. 89. Eluyemi 1978: 21. 90. Willett 1967: 106; Horton 1979: 107. 91. Eluyemi 1987: 200. 92. Ibid.: 203-13.

62. Willett 1986: p.99,fig. 70. ihis crowned figure seated on a stool and holding a head in his hands appears to be a late stone work, perhaps from the eighteenth or nineteenth century. The image is S20 in Willett 2004(CD-ROM). 63. Excavations at Woye Asiri found glass crucibles made of terra-cotta in tandem with pavements dated to the thirteenth century which confirms an lie glass/bead-making industry during the era. See also Garlake 1977.

93. Willett 1967: 106. 94. Similar stones have been found all over Ife; Willett, conversation with the author. June 1995. 95. Okediji, conversation with the author. May 1994.

64. Lankton, lge, Rehren 2006: 111.

96.1.ankton, Ise, Rehren 2006. But see Willett 1967 and 1977: 17-22,for other, earlier conclusions.

65. For discussions ofsegi and akori beads, see Fage 1962 and Davison et al. 1971.

97. Willett 1967: 106; and see Drewal and Mason 1998: figs. 27 and 28.

66. See Drewal and Mason 1998: figs. 16-19.

98. Garlake 1977.

67. The information summarized and elaborated in this part of my text is based on the ideas about the Yoruba's uses and perception of color outlined in the work of Moyosore Okediji and Bolaji Campbell; see Okediji,"Yoruba Pidgin Chromacy," in Okediji 1991: 16-28, and Campbell 2008.

99. Willett believes that these different uses for the crucibles suggest the termination of the glass industry, but they might indicate that the transformative qualities of glass were linked to divine forces and, therefore, equally appropriate for use as beads, ritual containers, or an ingredient in pavements defining sacred spaces; Willett 1967: 24-25. Crucibles, mortars, pestles, and segi beads are used in the worship of the road of Obatala, known as Orisa Ogiyan.

68. Moyosore Okediji, conversation with the author, October 1994. 69. Okediji 1991: 20. 70. Ibid.: 21.

100. Horton 1979: 108.

71. Okediji, conversation with the author, November 1997.

101. Garlake 1990:144.

72. Ade Adeyemi,conversation with the author, October 1997.

102. Eluyemi 1987: 217.

73. Such enculturated views of hues are, like the Yoruba world,dynamic and changing. Since the increasing exchange of trade items from Europe and elsewhere during the late fifteenth century, Yoruba have been modifying their notions and nomenclature ofcolors. In the process, Yoruba have devised a kind of hybrid "pidgin chromacy ... constructed upon the foundation of a pidgin language, neither fully Yoruba, nor fully English" that selectively adopts and adapts aspects of each chromatic group, while remaining somehow distinct and independent of both; Okediji 1991: 25-26. This pidgin chromacy was created either by Yorubanizing English words for color(such as 'do or buten째 while still referring to a broad range of hues(as in the Yoruba system) or referring tofunfim,pupa, and dudu according to European usage (white, red, and black)only.lhough not used previously, adjectives are now applied to Yoruba terms as qualifiers to suggest the intensity (brilliance or dullness) of certain colors; ibid. The impact and meaning-pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial-ofcolor perception and classification continue to change as Yorubas respond to changing economic,cultural, political, and historical forces; see also Thompson 1987: 45-46 and Campbell 2008: 41-70,165-78.

103. Eluyemi 1978: 18.'Ihere are very few active Yoruba Olokun shrines, and Olokun is not mentioned in either of the earliest sources by Yoruba authors (Crowther 1852; Johnson 1921), although a king of Ilesa, Obalokun, was associated with Europeans and trade (Johnson 1921/1966: 168-69). Akin Euba noted,"The Ife have an ensemble of abebe (leather fans struck against the palms of the hands) which is used in agbon music for the sea-goddess Osara," but he makes no mention of Olokun,suggesting that an indigenous sea deity may have existed before Olokun was introduced from Edo; A. Euba 1977: 8. 104. Lander and I.ander 1832/1837: 180. 105. I use the term "headgear" to avoid the royal associations of"crown," since we are still uncertain whether the persons depicted are sacred queens and kings(oba), priests, important elders, or possibly even elaborately attired offerings. See, for example, the beaded regalia adorning terra-cotta animal pot-lids at I.afogido, lie (cat. nos. 40 and 41); Eye and Willett, 1980: 108-9. 106. Willett 1967: caption to pl. 26.

74. Okediji, conversation with the author, May 1994.

107. See Drewal and Mason 1998: figs. 32-34.

75. Noted by Willett in the text about fig. 155(the terra-cotta foot) in his 2004 CD-ROM,and in the caption to plates 10(the king figure) and 6(the couple) in Willett 1967; there is also a toe ring mentioned in the caption to p1. 54 (another terra-cotta foot) in Willett 1967.

108. See Willett 1967: p. 67,and pl. 10 and colorplate III.

76. See Keyes 1994.

Ill. Willett 1967: colorplate IX and pl. 28.

77. Adeduntan 1985: 166.

112. See Willett 1967: fig. 71. It seems likely that this twentieth-century are crown has actual elements of earlier crowns, perhaps from the eighteenth century and earlier. According to Titi Euba, the are crown is buried with the departed Ooni but certain vital parts, such as the okun stone beads, are incorporated into the new ruler's crown;see T. Euba 1985: 13.

78. Okediji, conversation with the author, May 1994. 79. Okediji, conversation with the author, December 1991. 80. For a historical overview of beading in West Africa, see Drewal and Mason 1998: 34. 81.Shaw and Daniels, 1984.

109. Willett 1967: fig. 17. 110. Willett 2004(CD-ROM):chap. 2-I, fig. T60c.

113. T. Euba 1985: 3.

82. Johnson 1921/1966: 26.

114. Kolai.vole Ositola, a Yoruba diviner,in conversation with the author, May 21,1982.

83. Ozanne 1969; and Garlake 1990: 136.

115. T. Euba 1985: 5.



116. A soapstone sculpture (possibly eighteenth or early nineteenth century, based on style) of a seated ruler at lie depicts a conical crown and veil at the sides and back, the form typical ofcrown of the last two hundred years; Willett 1986: fig. 70. Veils and the full conical form are not features of early Ife headdresses,so these seem to have developed between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, perhaps as a result of changing views of the nature of sacred leadership. 117. See Thompson 1973; Eyo and Willett 1980: 120-26; and Bassani and Fagg 1988. 118. Akinnaso 1983: 145. For detailed discussions on Yoruba naming traditions, praise poetry, and related matters,see Bascom 1960: 404; Babalola 1966; Ekundayo 1977; Awolalu 1979: chap. 3; Eades 1980; Akinnaso 1981 and 1983; and Barber 1981. 119. See Akinnaso 1981:51. 120. For a fuller discussion of the cone form in Yoruba culture and art, see Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: 27-32 and endnotes 32-35. 121. See Willett 1967: pl. 16. 122. Eyo 1974b. The Lafogido site, dated to the twelfth century CF.,has been interpreted as either a shrine or grave. All the site features at Lafogido are ancient sacred space concepts of the Yoruba in which the ram became an important emblem of power, prestige, and alertness; see Abiodun,chapter 4, in Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989. 123. Ositola, conversation with the author, July 1982. 124. Abraham 1958: 286. 125. For an excellent report on excavations at Obalara,see Garlake 1974. 126. Garlake 1974: 139; and Garlake 1977.

144. In a detailed analysis of pottery at 1Voye Asiri and dated to somewhat earlier than Obalara. Garlake concluded that there was a clear continuity between thirteenth-century and nineteenth/twentieth-century Yoruba pottery in shape, rim/lip forms, decorations, and functions; Garlake 1977: 89. 145. Frank Willett stated,"I have two new thermoluminescent dates that I have not published which suggest that the [metal] heads from the Wunmonije Compound are contemporary with the radiocarbon dates from Its Yemoo"; Willett, letter to the author, Feb.4, 1988. However,Garlake states that these dates "suggest that the brasses sampled may be slightly later that the pottery sculpture"; Garlake 2002: 134. 146. Willett 1967: 27. 147. NVillett 1966; Willett 1967; Eyo and Willett 1980. For a discussion of ako figures in the context of other funeral effigies in southwestern Nigeria, see Poynor 1987. According to Nevadomsky,ako figures do appear at second burials for kings, the war captain, and his chief priest, while smaller chalk ones may be made for the parents of the king's wives; Nevadomsky 1984a: 46. Lawal supports ‘Villett's second-burial hypothesis with data from the Awori Yoruba Eyo ceremonies, although these are different from the ako figures used in Owo,and suggests that the life-size heads and copper mask "might have functioned in interregnum,succession, and/or coronation ceremonies, among others"; Lawal 2001: 506-8. In addition, he mentions Suzanne Blier's theory that the mask might have been used in coronation rites and became a memorial to Ooni Obalufon's legendary association with the artistic and economic flowering of life; see Blier 1985. Hopefully, further archaeological and ethnographic research will help us resolve some of these questions. 148. Abiodun 1976.

127. Garlake 1977. However, one cluster of realistic terra-cotta fragments was arranged after they had broken-an indication that they may have been modeled before the thirteenth century. 128. Garlake 1974. 129. Abiodun and Beier 1991: 18. 130. Only two other Ile works have single-strand head beads. One found at Akarabata, Ife, has strung rosettes with iron nails in their centers; Willett 1967: fig. 15. The other has two bells; Eyo and Willett 1980: no. 47. 131. Garlake 1974: fig. 6.1 remember vividly the day in 1971 when Peter Garlake began to uncover that vessel at Obalara's Land. On another vessel with many of the same relief images,found at Koiwo Layout, skulls are visible at the bottom of the posts of a covered altar; see Vogel 1983: fig. 36. Several elders in 1977-78 indicated to me that human sacrifices were performed and the heads placed at the foundations of certain sacred structures such as town gates, shrines, palaces, and at the enthronement of rulers; see also Willett 1986: fig. 70.

149. This information comes from orisa priests and Ogboni/Osugbo elders in Egbado collected in 1977-78,and from diviners and elders in ljebu in 1982 and 1986. 150. The ljebu data comes from my own work there in 1982 and 1986,and Rowland Abiodun provided confirmation for Ife and Owo; Abiodun, conversation with the author, April 8, 1989. 151. This information comes from elders in Egbado collected in 1977-78,and ljebu in 1982 and 1986. Willett was told the same at Ilesa; see Willett 1967: 131. However,in an unpublished paper written after 1994 and shared with me, Willett cites the mounds at Igbo Odi, Ile, and the Bara at Oyo as the burial places of rulers. The question remains: what was buried? Igbo Odi, meaning "Secret Grove," retains its mystery. 152. For a detailed discussion of this mask,see Blicr 1985, 153, Beier 1982: 91-112. This rite apparently takes place at lkirun as well; see Garlake 1990: 24. 154. Garlake 1990: 24.

132. M.T. Drewal and H. J. Drewal 1987.

155. Nevadomsky 1984b: 52.

133. Garlake 2002: 173, fig. 78.

156. Fagg and Willett 1962.

134. See Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: chapters 1 and 5.

157. Eluyeini 1977. Willett, writing after this terra-cotta mask was discovered, concurs and reasserts the interpretation of beadwork, not a beard/moustache; Willett 1986: 99. The important point is the covering of the mouth from which issue awesome words containing ase. A beard/moustache would not do this.

135. Willett 1967:40. 136. Garlake 1974: fig. 6. 137. Ibid.: pl. 51. 138. Willett 1967: plates 13, 14. 139. Willett 2004(CD-ROM),no. 1234, text on p.4:"Fragments of vessels with similar relief decorations have been found in many parts of Ife."

158. Willett 1967: pl. 89; Eyo 1977: 97-98. 159. Drewal, in Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: figs. 117 and 128. 160. Brincard 1980: 123.

140. A metal ring identical to this one was found at Its Yemoo around the neck of a buried pot filled with beads; see Willett 2006: fig. 9 and p. 154.

161. Bowen 1944: 63.

141. Willett 1967: 122-23.

162. Oba William Adetona Ayeni,conversation with the author. July 197.1.

142. Ibid.

163. Willett 1967: pl. 23.

143. Eluyemi 1976. The rosettes are similar to those on some of the lie metal and terra-cotta heads,like one found at Akarabata, Ife (Willett 1967: pl. 15).

164. See M.T. Drewal 1989/1992. 165. Garlake 2002: 136.



166. Willett 1967: 23. 167. See Vogel 1983. 168. Paula Ben-Amos has suggested that some of the bronze heads at Benin probably depict sacrificial victims, not royals; Ben-Amos 1980. The same is probably true for lie, and quite certain for the terra-cotta corpus. 169. Willett 1967: pl. 45.

179. See Obayemi 1976: 260; Ojo 1966: 121-22; Phillipson 1985: 193; and McIntosh 1989: 79. Andah points to the need to develop Afrocentric rather than Eurocentric concepts of urbanization and state formation if we are to comprehend the meaning of archeological evidence; Andah 1982: 68. This is particularly true of debates about the antiquity of urbanism among the Yoruba. For the literature on this topic, see M.T. Drewal 1989/1992. 180. See the discussion of this in Shaw 1978: 160.

170. See Ben-Amos and Rubin 1983: 73-74.

181. Garlake 1977.

171. See Blier 1985 and 1.awal 2001. 172. Fraser 1975. 173. Egharevba 1968; Ben-Amos 1980; and Nevadomsky 1984a and 1984b. 174. Shaw mentions that Babatunde Lawal suggested the Nupe confiscated the bronzes from the Yoruba; Shaw 1973. I believe this is likely. 175. It is probably the work of the sculptor who created an image in honor of Esti/Elegba; Allison 1968: pl. 12. 176. See Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: chap. 7.

182. Sacrifice is an essential part of orisa religious belief and practice. Humans were the ultimate sacrifice, and they came from special categories of personswar captives, criminals already sentenced to death,strangers/foreigners, and "extra-ordinaries"(hunchbacks,cripples, albinos, dwarfs, or those with visibly dramatic ailments such as goiter or elephantiasis). Such distinctive physical traits were interpreted as the handiwork of the gods,and,in accordance with Yoruba practice, they were persons chosen in orutt to serve the gods(and humans)in aye. 183. Willett 1967: 77.

177. Smith 1969/1988: 42.

184. Garlake 1974:131.

178. A group of stone stools at Kuta, near Iwo,serve as a "ritually sanctioned boundary marker"; Fagg 1960: 114. Philip Ravenhill informed me of A. Adande's report on stone sculpture found in the area north of the ancient Yoruba city-state of Save in central Benin (Republique populaire du Benin) and of a report published in the Bulletin de l'Equipe de Recherche Areheologique Beninoise, no. I, Departement d'Histoire et Archeaologie, Benin (n.d.), which suggests an important sculpting tradition that requires systematic investigation; Ravenhill, conversation with the author, April I, 1989.

185. This idea is explored in Drewal, Pemberton, Abiodun 1989: chap. 5. 186. Beier 1970: 39.


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University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.



Glossary abiku: a child thought to be allied with spirits who attract it from the world of the living; literally, a child "born to die." ade lila: a beaded crown with veil and birds, the symbol of a ruler's authority. afOse: the power of words to bless or curse.

dada: a name given to a child born with curly hair. chichi: one of three chromatic groupings, mediating between funfun and pupa, associated with warmth (Id wtiOrO) and dark colors such as browns, greens, blues, and purple; used also to refer to esoteric knowledge. ebo: sacrifice.

agba: a barrel-shaped,single-membrane, wooden drum. ajogun: a type of spirit.

edan: pair of linked brass male and female figures, symbols of the Ogboni/OsUgbo Society.

ako: a naturalistic, life-size, wooden effigy; also refers to the second burial rites in which effigies are used.

eiwO: restrictions or taboos.

akOko: a sacred tree or the leaf of that tree,symbolic of the endurance and long life of the ruler. akori: a type ofglass bead, coral in color, used by chiefs and priests as a sign of their office. Alain: beads.

egbe: a type of spirit. egbe abilal: spirit children; literally, the "society ofchildren born to die." EgUngun: masked dancers/performers representing the spirits of ancestors; and the ancestral masking society to which they belong, the EgUngun Society.

alaase: one who possesses performative power, authority, and life force (ase).

eja ajabO: mudfish.

Alayemore: See QbalufOn II.

ekine: water spirit, or children born through the intercession of water spirits.

amusan: a male child born with its head inside the caul, and therefore favored for initiation into the EgUngun Society.(See EgUngun) apere: a cylindrical stool, which usually contains ritually efficacious materials; also called MU. ara Orun: ancestors and other spiritual entities; literally,"dwellers in the other world." araye: people who harbor the world."

toward others; literally,"people of

mese: a servant or messenger of Yoruba royals, whose head is shaved on one side; also called 'Hari. emi: divine breath, spirit. eniyan: a living human. enu un wa ka: an expression meaning "we see eye to eye." epe: an efficacious curse; also called ak.g. ere: image.

asa: shield. ase: authority, performative power,and life force within all things. ato: a female child born with its head inside the caul, and therefore favored for initiation into the EgUngtin Society.(See Egungun) awon iya wa: a collective term for elderly women,female ancestors, and female deities; literally,"our mothers." aworo: a chief priest.

erin omi(or erinmi): hippopotamus; literally,"elephant of the water." esO: caution. Egalegba: the divine messenger and activator, principle of uncertainty. etutit: cold or coolness. ewa: beauty.

Awitnrin Qlojci: a wife of Osingangan Obamakin (cobaliifOn I). aye: the world of the living, as opposed to Orun,the spiritual realm of ancestors, deities, and spirits.

Eweka I: the first ruler of the Edo people of Benin,said to be the son of the Ife hero OrOnmiyOn.

babalawo: It'd divination priests; literally,"father of ancient wisdom:'

funfun: one of three chromatic groupings, evoking shades of white and gray, coldness, age and wisdom.

babafila: ancestors.

gbigbona: warmth and heat.



ibori: a conical-shaped object made of leather, shells, beads, and empowering substances that represents and embodies a person's individuality and destiny (ipOnri). Ifi: a deity, and the system of divination that stands at the border between the realms of Orun (otherworld) and aye (this world). ifarabale: composure,calmness.

kele: neck beads. 101000: warm. mariwo: palm fronds. oba: sacred ruler. QbalitfOn II: ObalidOn Anyemore, regarded as the founder of an lfe dynasty, and sometimes regarded as the third (7)oni after the time of creation.

igbin: a type of drum for Qbatala. igbe: forest grove. Igueghae: legendary Ife bronze-caster sent to Benin by QOni of Ife, and still regarded as patron of Benin bronze-casters.

Qbatala: a deity, regarded by many as the artist-god ("molder of humans in clay") instructed by Olodumare to establish human civilization in the world; also known as Orisanla.

ijoko: seat, stool.

ode: outer or visible exterior.

ijokao aiisa: a raised platform on an ollsa shrine where the symbols of a deity reside; literally,"god's seat."

Oditduwa: the first ruler of Ile, regarded by many as the founder of sacred rulership and as the deity instructed by Olodumare to establish human civilization in the world; perceived as male by Odilduwa's supporters but as female by Qbatans supporters.

ikoride(or lkoode): red tail feather of a parrot. Ind: a king's messenger whose head is shaved on one side; also called emese.

MO: danger or loss. ogbOn: wisdom.

Ile: the earth. Ogim: the deity of iron, war, and technology.

Ile: house or home. Ile-ori: a shrine to one's personal destiny; literally,"the house of the head." iledi: the lodge of the Ogboni/Ositgb6 Society; literally, "house-with-inner-sanctum:'

ojtibo: the place one faces when worshiping; literally,"face of worship." °A-Intl: literally,"inner eye" or "insight."

int): knowledge. in

ojti: face.

kin: egret; known as the "ruler of birds:' whose long, white tail feather is often worn at the top of an oba's crown.

inner or interior.

okti Orun: ancestors.

ipilese: fundamental principles of Yoruba thought.

Olokun: an Ile deity, the goddess of the sea, also associated with bead making.

ipOnri: a person's inner essence or individuality. Iran: mental images.

olori: women of a palace, kings' wives, queens, widows.

ita: crossroads; also called orita.

OlOdumare: the Supreme Being.

iwa: the essential nature of a person or thing.

iwarewa: beauty and evocative power.

omi erO: fluid from a snail, mixed with herbs, used as a healing balm.

iwa pele: good character.


iwin: a type of spirit.

omolOkun: children born through the intercession of Olokun, the goddess of the sea; literally,"children of the sea:'

iya ade: the oldest and most honored crown of a ruler; literally, "mother crown." female ancestors.

oogun: traditional medicinal/magical preparations. ()Orli: the term for the ruler of Ife.

iyi: dignity, honor.

OpĂĄ: staff.

jijo (or jijora): resemblance.

copcin 16: divination tray.



Qramf: the M deity of thunder. Orinmiyan: the legendary M conqueror and leader who founded a new dynasty in If,as well as at Benin and at Or5.; said to be the son or grandson of OdOduwa.

Ore: the hunter deity who is said to have lived before OdUcluwa created the earth, when the world was still all water.

orliko )ra: a name given to a partial reincarnation of an ancestor. orun: the otherworld; the invisible spiritual realm of ancestors, deities, and spirits. Osingangan Qbamakin: an early ruler of Ife's indigenous population, also known as QbalufOn I; father of QbaldOn Alayemore (QbalidOn II).

on: head; also, a person's prenatal destiny. ori

oriiko amutOriwa: a name reflecting the spiritual nature of one's birth; literally,"names brought from the otherworld."

the inner head or spiritual self.

osi: the collective term in Ij011 dialect for ancestors.

oriki: praise song or poem.

Osi babaiili: spirits of departed ancestors.

orin: song.

OtutilOpon: the yellow and green colors often worn by diviners; literally,"cool-and-hot:'

ori ode: the outer or physical head. oriO: deity or deities.

OwO: respect.

orisa funfun: the "cool" or calm deities.

eye: understanding.

(Visa gbigbona: the "hot" or aggressive deities.

pupa: one of three chromatic groupings, evoking gbigborth (warmth and heat) and associated with reds, yellows, oranges.

orita (or orita m4ta): crossroads.

sgi: a type ofglass bead, dark blue or blue-green in color, used as a sign of office.

Orisanla: another name for 째ditch:ma. On): a type of spirit; spiritual presence.

patience. Ore Society: a group closely associated with the Ogboni/Osugbo Society and which carries out its judgments. ortiko abikti: a name given to a person who is a reincarnation of him/herself.

tibi: associated with evil. tire ni: associated with goodness. Iva (or oriwii): inspired, energized, swelled.

ortiko abiso: a name given to a person independently of the circumstances of birth, but which still reveals something of the nature of the person.




Acknowledgments Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, both the exhibition and this book,could not have been accomplished without the help of a great many people and institutions who contributed their expertise, ideas, funding, logistical support, and encouragement. For the essential assistance they provided in Nigeria, we would like to thank the staff of the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments(NCMM),especially Director-General Joseph Eboreime; Nath Mayo Adediran,director of museums;and Mrs. Edith Ekunke,assistant to the director of museums. Ms. lbironke P. Ashaye, director of the National Museum in Lagos, and M.Olubode Adesina, director of the National Museum in Ife, and their respective staffs were most helpful in planning and realizing this exhibition. We are grateful to Mr. Adedoyin 0. Sikiru and Enadeghe A. Ezomo who served as couriers for the first leg of the exhibition tour in Spain. A very special acknowledgment must go to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, for his generosity and interest in the project. He graciously welcomed members of our team in lie and provided accommodation in his guest house. His support is a testament to the enduring importance of Ife art in Nigeria today. Robin Sanders, the United States Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and members of the U.S. embassy staff in Nigeria—Mary I.ou Johnson-Pizarro, Lisa Peterson, Lisa Piascik, and Atim George—helped at crucial moments. Angel Losada Fernandez,Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, took an interest in this project from beginning to end. In addition, we extend our warmest appreciation to our gracious hosts in Lagos, Nike Davis-Okundaye and Reuben Okundaye,and to Adisa Ogunfolakan in Ife, where he generously shared his knowledge about ilk's ancient ceramic pavements. Many people contributed valuable assistance. At the British Museum,Julie Hudson,Claude Ardouin, Jonathan King, Jill Maggs, and staff members in their Department of Conservation and Scientific Research gave immeasurable help with the exhibition, including organizing shipments in Nigeria and attending to the conservation ofsome of the objects. As part of an ongoing partnership program with the Lagos Museum,sponsored by the Ford Foundation, they, along with David Noden, Kathryn Godwin,and Pippa Pearce, provided training in preventive conservation and object packing to the NCMM staff. Katherine Coleman helped with all the logistics of the British team and coordinated the visits of the Nigerian conservators in London. Barbara Plankensteiner and Christian Feest at the Vienna Museum fur Volkerkunde gave generous support for conservator Florian Rainer to travel to Nigeria to prepare condition reports on the objects. We also express our deep appreciation to Carolyn Marsden Smith and Rosemary Bradley at the British Museum, Richard Woodward and Robin Nicholson at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and David Chalfie at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, all of whom were very supportive and confident of our ability to realize our ambitious goals in this project. For the catalogue, we wish to acknowledge our debt to the many mentors,friends, colleagues, and other African art specialists whose work and support has contributed to this catalogue and exhibition. Our thanks go first and foremost to Henry Drewal,author of the main essay in this book,for his insightful, informative essay about lie art. Thanks are also due to Rowland Abiodun, James Adetoye, Ade Adeyemi, Barbara Blackmun, Bolaji Campbell, David Doris, Perkins Foss, Babatunde I.awal, Akinwumi Ogundiran, Moyosore Okediji, Jacob Olupona, Kolawole Ositola, Olasope Oyelaran, and John Pemberton. We are grateful to all of these individuals who offered their expertise, practical advice, and words of encouragement and caution at many stages in this project. We owe a special intellectual debt to the inspiration provided by the work of the late Frank Willett. He excavated and meticulously described the first large group of lie objects that were discovered in

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the 1930s. Subsequent archaeology by Peter Garlake and Ekpo Eyo contributed further discoveries to the Ife corpus and to our knowledge of this extraordinary art. The detailed descriptions of all of these works, published in Willett's 2004 CD-ROM, The Art ofIfe: A Descriptive Catalogue and Database, have been a valuable source of information in preparing this exhibition and catalogue. We are pleased to acknowledge the work of Stephen Robert Frankel,our thoughtful and meticulous editor, who attended to every word of this book and to the exhibition texts. We are also grateful to Donna Ghelerter, the Museum's managing editor, and Carol Braide, the Museum's graphics manager,for their important and tireless work on this project. The Museum for African Art has had the pleasure of working again with the very talented book designers Linda Florio and Sol Salgar. We also thank Karin L. Willis for her energy and professionalism in photographing objects in Nigeria under difficult conditions. We express our appreciation to book designer Fernando Riancho,for designing the Spanish language catalogue. We also thank the following individuals in New York and in Spain for their efforts in making this project successful: Kate Caiazza, registrar at the Museum for African Art, has worked endlessly on every aspect of exhibition organization and logistics. Margo Donaldson, Kenita Lloyd, Michelle Pinedo, and Brendan Wattenberg handled many aspects offund raising, promotion,and administration. Stephen Rustow and Caroline Voss have designed the exhibition for the United States tour while John Van Couvering, Constance Smith,and Jerry Vogel assisted in numerous ways over the course of the project. In Santander and Madrid, the exhibition's venues in Spain, this project could not have been completed without the help of Begona Guerrica and Amaia Barred째 Vales at the Fundacion Marcelino Botin. We also thank exhibition designer Jesus Moreno Martinez, Guillermo Gonzalez from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and Monica Redondo Alvarez,chief conservator for the Institut째 del Patrimonio Cultural de Espana. The Museum for African Art gratefully acknowledges financial support for the exhibition from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the catalogue has been provided by the Getty Foundation. Finally, we extend our appreciation to the Museum for African Art's Board of Trustees and the Museum's president, Elsie McCabe Thompson,for their steadfast support and commitment. We are also deeply grateful to Chairman of the FundaciOn Marcelino Botin, Emilio Botin. This has been a long and complicated project, involving many institutions and individuals, and we are grateful for the unwavering enthusiasm and encouragement that all of them have offered over the last several years. Enid Schildkrout Chief Curator and Director ofExhibitions Museum for African Art, New York Paloma Botin Fundacion Marcelino Botin, Santander



Photo Credits CATALOGUE OBJECTS Museum for African Art and Fundacion Marcelino Botin/Karin L. Willis unless noted below. 0 National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria Museum for African Art and Fundacion Marcelino Botin/Juan Jesus Blazquez cat. nos. 8-10, 15,40-42, 52, 57,61,66,67,95, 106, 107 National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria Museum for African Art/Jerry L. Thompson cat. no. 50 Dirk Bakker cat. no. 3

FIGURES Photographs: Dallas Museum of Art fig. 27 M.T. Drewal figs. 11, 12, 36 H. J. Drewal figs. 13, 16, 19, 20, 23 Fine Arts Museums ofSan Francisco fig. 37 Florio Design figs. 5-7, 15 Florio Design, based on drawing by H. J. Drewal fig. 8 Dietrick Graf; Bildarchiv Preussischer KulturbesItz/Art Resource, NY fig. 26 Andre Held 1974 figs. 3, 34 Museum for African Art/Karin L. Willis fig. 1 Museum for African Art/Jerry L. Thompson figs. 28-30,32 John Pemberton III fig. 33 Enid Schildkrout fig. 17 Merton Simpson Gallery fig. 35 Sotheby's fig. 10 Staatliches Museum fur Volkerkunde/S. Autrum-Mulzer fig. 9 (c.) The Trustees of the British Museum figs. 4, 21 0 Frank Willett/Licensor www.scran.ac.uk. figs. 22, 24, 25 Leon Underwood,from his book, Bronzes of West Africa (Alex Tiranti Ltd, 1949) fig. 2 University of Iowa Museum of Art fig. 38 Drawings: After a drawing in Garlake,"Excavations of the Woye Asiri Family Land in Ife," 1977 fig. 14 After a drawing in Garlake,"Excavations at Obalara's Land, Ife, Nigeria," 1974 fig. 18 Source: Garlake,"Excavations at Obalara's Land, Ife, Nigeria:' 1974 fig. 31




Museum for African Art Board of Trustees

Museum For African Art Staff

Co-Chair Jonathan D. Green Onuoha 0. Odim

ADMINISTRATION Elsie McCabe Thompson President

EDUCATION Nathaniel Johnson Director ofEducation

Jerome Vogel Special Advisor to the President

Dana Elmquist Education Associate

Kenita Lloyd Deputy Director

Lawrence Ekechi Outreach Coordinator

Vice Chair Jane Katcher Secretary Veronica Pollard

Bridget Foley Manager, Operations & Administration

Treasurer Patricia Norman President Elsie McCabe Thompson Trustees Marc Abrams Corice Canton Arman Lawrence B. Benenson Paloma Botin Edward Dandridge Moctar Fall Mitchell Harwood David Markin Katsuto /vlomii Rosemary Nelson Katsumi Ogawa John Tishman Jason Wright Honorary Life Trustees Kathryn McAuliffe James Ross Robert Rubin (In memoriam)

CURATORIAL Enid Schildkrout ChiefCurator and Director of Exhibitions and Publications Lisa Binder Assistant Curator Donna Ghelerter Curatorial Associate Kate Caiazza Registrar Carol Braide Publications Manager Brendan Wattenberg Traveling Exhibit Coordinator DEVELOPMENT Margo Donaldson Senior Development Officer Marietta Ulacia Senior Development Officer Nicolet Gatewood Senior Development Associate Claire Hoffman Development Assistant


FINANCE Michelle Pinedo Controller Idalia Cajigas Accountant SECURITY Winston Rodney, Jr. Facilities Manager


Profile for The Africa Center

Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria  

Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria presents a major part of the extraordinary corpus of ancient Ife art in terra-cotta, stone,...

Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria  

Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria presents a major part of the extraordinary corpus of ancient Ife art in terra-cotta, stone,...