The sumptuous sculptures of the civilization of Ile-Ife

Nearly 1000 years ago, the Yoruba people built some cleverly organized cities in the south of Nigeria, with Ife as their religious capital. The Yoruba civilization was born from the union between the indigenous peoples of the country and migrants. Those primary peoples are at the origin of the Nok civilization and its brilliant 2500-year-old terracotta sculptures. The migrants in question are probably Egyptian-Sudanese. Those people of the Nile have assimilated the local inhabitants and absorbed their art, which they afterwards magnified.

Yoruba sculptures
Yoruba sculptures

The Egyptian origin of the Yoruba was revealed by the work of J Olumide Lucas in ‘’ The Religion of the Yorubas ‘’ published in 1948. Apart from the linguistic, religious and sociological similarities with ancient Egypt, there are some words of Greek and Roman origin in the language, which makes it possible to state that the Yorubas have rubbed shoulders with these European peoples in Egypt.

The Yorubas have made the city of Ile-Ife – the place of excellence representing the creation of the world by Olodumare (God) – their holy city and political seat. It is from this city that the Edo people would reportedly originate. The Edo founded the prestigious Benin civilization in the south. Nigeria thus experienced an exceptional concentration of civilizations with Nok at the beginning, then the immense Yoruba and Hausa States-cities, Benin, the empire of the Kanem-Bornu, or the advanced culture of the Igbos and its pyramids of Nsude.

Through the photos that follow, you will discover the genius of the ancient Yorubas. Their sculptural art dedicated to the members of the clergy and royalty essentially is with that of Benin, the most refined and successful of the African imperial era. These bronze and terracotta sculptures have astounded the Europeans, who have tried in vain, to find them a white origin. The Ile-Ife civilization would collapse with the British colonial invasion at the end of the 19th century.

On the left is a prince. The precision and realism of the sculptures are of in the order of perfection
On the left is a prince. The precision and realism of the sculptures are of in the order of perfection
A gauche l'Ooni, le roi et chef religieux des Yoruba
On the left the Ooni, the king and religious leader of the Yoruba
On remarque les scarifications, très présentes dans l'art d'Ifé
There are scarifications, very present in the art of Ife
La sculpture de droite représente une reine
The sculpture on the right represents a queen

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By : Lisapo ya Kama ©