Ancient Ife Art


These artefact bronze heads were found in Wunmonije quarters near the palace in Ile-Ife in 1938 two feet below ground when a foundation for a building was being dug. This picture was taken in 1948 at the British Museum.


Ita Yemoo, 14th -15th century,

Copper alloy &pigment. National museum, Ile-Ife. In 1957, this couple sculpture was found by workmen beside the road to Ilesa. The casting is a portrayal of an Ooni & his Queen in full regalia.


Head with Are crown of the Ooni , Wunmonije Quarters, Ile- Ife , 14th - 15th century, Copper alloy


Queen head. Ita Yemoo, Ile-Ife , Terra-cotta, 12th - 15th century


Crown head (Are crown )Wunmonije quarters, Ile-Ife Copper alloy,12th-14th century.


Idena/gatekeeper to the Ore Grove. Ile-Ife, Biotite gneiss & iron nails, 12th-15th century


Tada, Copper with traces of arsenic, lead & tin. 13th -14th century. Found in the shrine in Tada village of Nupe, about 120 miles from Ile-Ife. In the shrine it ensured the fertility of the community, of the crops and fishing in the river. The Tada figure is so close in style to the Ife copper alloy.


“Lajuwa” Head, Ife Palace, Ile-Ife. 12th -15th century. Terra-cotta. The usurper palace courtier/ Saru , the story goes that after the demise of the Ooni his lord and master, Lajuwa hid the Ooni’s body or buried it and pretended to be the Ooni. When his deception was discovered, Lajuwa was beheaded, with all the artists and sculptors by the succeeding Ooni. And so, Lajuwa wrote himself into history, because today, he is the patron of the Emese’s/palace courtiers.


Wunmonije quarters, Ile-Ife .dated early 14th -15th century .Copper alloy with traces of 1%gold. National commission for museums & monuments, Nigeria. Excavation marks caused by a pickaxe in 1938 when it was found. It was stolen in 1993 but returned to the Nigerian government.


Head. Wunmonije quarters , Ile-Ife in copper alloy dated early 14th - 15th century. Nearly life size head with no facial marks was crushed by a blow on the left cheek & neck.


Head. Wunmonije quarters Ile-Ife, pure copper, dated to early 14th -15th century. Near life size head. Lines of black and red paint around the eyes. Band of red paint around the neck.


Head. Wunmonije quarters Ile-Ife, pure copper, late 14th- early16th century. life size


Head. Wunmonije quarters Ile-Ife, 14th - early to 15th century. Copper alloy. It has an unusually long neck with no facial marks. It is the largest and heaviest, weighing 9kg.


Head. Wunmonije quarters in Ile-Ife. 14th -early 15th century. Copper alloy.


Opa Oranmiyan.


Head Iwinrin Grove, Ile-Ife, 12th - 15th century. Terra-cotta.


Head Iwinrin Grove, Ile-Ife, 12th - 15th century. Terra-cotta.


Head Osangangan Obamakin, Ile-Ife , 12th - 15th century, Terra-cotta. Also known to represent as Obalufon 1, an early ruler of Ife indigenous population. This head was kept in the base of a terra-cotta pot found beneath another pot in the shrine dedicated to Obalufon 1. Today an annual festival known as EDI reenacts a legendary battle between Ife indigenous population and the later dynasty headed by his son , Obalufon Alayemore, known as Obalufon 2.


Head Iwinrin Grove, Ile-Ife, 12th - 15th century. Terra-cotta. The individual portrayed here was a queen / high ranking royal.


Head Iwinrin Grove, Ile-Ife, 12th - 15th century. Terra-cotta. Ife heads with facial marks have incised striations. This expressive face is one of two known heads with facial marks of raised lines.They may depict marks produced using an extract from the blister beetle. Members of the royal family have been known to endure this ordeal for certain rituals in the past.