Ancient Ile Ife, Yoruba artifacts sighted in Sweden


Royal Heads
14- early 15th century. (Copper alloy) Photo by Eyes of a Lagos Boy
Ile Ife, the legendary homeland of the Yoruba people of South-West Nigeria, today is a vibrant urban centre with major institutions, including a university, museums, a lively market and business establishments. The 51st Ooni of Ife, HRM Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Akande Ogunwusi, Ojaja II is one of the world’s oldest extant monarchies and remains its traditional head.
I visited this exhibition of rare Ife artifacts held in Stockholm, Sweden in January 2014. It presented hundreds of sculptures made out of metal, stone and terracotta telling the story of the ancient African civilization of Ile Ife. It highlights Ife’s most prominent era, from the 12th to the 15th century.
The figure of a King, 14th century (copper alloy). Discovered in 1957 by workmen levelling ground for construction at Ita Yemoo, Ile Ife, Nigeria.  Photo By Eyes of a Lagos Boy
Yoruba people are not only present in West Africa, many of their descendants live in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and USA, basically all around the Americas. Together, they are estimated to be around 70 million.  
In 1910, the German Anthropologist Leo Frobenius discovered the copper cast head said to represent the god Olokun and erroneously attributed it to the ancient Greeks.
In 1938 a turning point arose in the understanding of the art of Ife. While constructing a house close to the Ooni’s (ancestral head of Ile Ife) palace, many of the copper alloy royal portraits in this exhibition were uncovered. 
This discovery confirmed Ife’s place as a world-class art-centre. Before this, the art was barely known and clearly misunderstood. 
These ancient Yoruba artefacts are permanently on travelling exhibitions around the world. They have not been seen in Nigeria in the last four decades.
Possibly an early 20th- century copy of a 14th- early 15th-century original.


Found in 1938 by workmen digging a foundation at Wunmonije Compound, Ife, Nigeria.

Rings of Birds Pecking at Bound Humans 14th- early 15th century (Copper Alloy)
From the Wunmonije Compound, Ile Ife, Nigeria.

The images of vultures pecking at bound humans on this shrine object is a sign that rites were performed and accepted by the gods.

Head with crown (Ori Ade)
12th-15 century (Terracotta)
Found in 1958 during an archaeological excavation at Ita Yemo, Ile Ife, Nigeria.
[caption id="attachment_1309" align="alignnone" width="680"]img_0595 Male Torso 12th-13th century (Terracotta)
12th-15th century (Terracotta) Discovered in 1961 when a fuel tank was being set in the ground near the Ibadan Road, Ife, Nigeria. – Photo By Eyes of a Lagos Boy
[caption id="attachment_1408" align="alignnone" width="680"]img_0706 Chameleon – 12th-15th century (Terracotta) Discovered in 1961 when a fuel tank was being set in the ground near the Ibadan Road, Ife, Nigeria. – Photo By Eyes of a Lagos Boy
Terracotta Heads
(L) 12th-15 From the Iwinrin Grove, 1949. Ile Ife.
(R) 17th-19th century. Discovered in 1962 in eroding soil at Ogbon Oya, Ile Ife, Nigeria. 
Globe-shaped Pot
12th- 15th century (Terracotta)
From the Osangangan Obamakin Grove, Ile Ife Nigeria.
Ring with Crocodile Heads and Leaves
14th- early 15th century (Copper alloy)
Found in 1943 at Itajero, Ile Ife, Nigeria.
Ile Ife, South West Nigeria.
Skeppsholmens Caverns, Stockholm Sweden.
To this day, new works which tell us even more about Ife’s history are being discovered. 


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