36" tall x 10" wide
Bronze Benin Statue of King
The Ife primarily inhabit southwestern Nigeria, although Ife populations can also be found in western Benin. They speak Yoruba, a Niger-Congo language, and are one of the Yoruba peoples. Approximately 1 million people consider themselves IFE.
Ife bronze casting of a King, dated around 12th Century.
Between 700 and 900 A.D., Ife began to develop as a major artistic center. Important people were often depicted with large heads because the artists believed that the Ase was held in the head, the Ase being the inner power and energy of a person. Their rulers were also often depicted with their mouths covered so that the power of their speech would not be too great. They did not idealize individual people, but they tended rather to idealize the office of the king.
Ilé-Ifè is known worldwide for its ancient and naturalistic bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, which reached their peak of artistic expression between 1200 and 1400 A.D. After this period, production declined as political and economic power shifted to the nearby kingdom of Benin which, like the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, developed into a major empire.
Bronze and terracotta art created by this civilization are significant examples of realism in pre-colonial African art.