Ife

Ife

Overview
Ife is an ancient Yoruba
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

 in south-western Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

. Evidence of inhabitation at the site has been discovered to date back to roughly 560 BC. It is located in the present day Osun State
Osun State
Ọṣun State is an inland state in south-western Nigeria. Its capital is Osogbo. It is bounded in the north by Kwara State, in the east partly by Ekiti State and partly by Ondo State, in the south by Ogun State and in the west by Oyo State. The state's current governor is Rauf Aregbesola, who was...

.

Ife is about 150 kilometres (93.2 mi) northeast of Lagos
Lagos
Lagos is a port and the most populous conurbation in Nigeria. With a population of 7,937,932, it is currently the third most populous city in Africa after Cairo and Kinshasa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa...

.

According to the Yoruba people, Ife is where the founding deities Oduduwa
Oduduwa
Oduduwa Omoluabi, Olofin Adimula, Emperor of the Yoruba, phonetically written by his people as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings....

 and Obatala
Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...

 began the creation of the world, as directed by the paramount Deity Olodumare.
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Encyclopedia
Ife is an ancient Yoruba
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

 in south-western Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

. Evidence of inhabitation at the site has been discovered to date back to roughly 560 BC. It is located in the present day Osun State
Osun State
Ọṣun State is an inland state in south-western Nigeria. Its capital is Osogbo. It is bounded in the north by Kwara State, in the east partly by Ekiti State and partly by Ondo State, in the south by Ogun State and in the west by Oyo State. The state's current governor is Rauf Aregbesola, who was...

.

Ife is about 150 kilometres (93.2 mi) northeast of Lagos
Lagos
Lagos is a port and the most populous conurbation in Nigeria. With a population of 7,937,932, it is currently the third most populous city in Africa after Cairo and Kinshasa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa...

.

History


According to the Yoruba people, Ife is where the founding deities Oduduwa
Oduduwa
Oduduwa Omoluabi, Olofin Adimula, Emperor of the Yoruba, phonetically written by his people as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings....

 and Obatala
Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...

 began the creation of the world, as directed by the paramount Deity Olodumare. Odùduwà is thought to have created the earth before he became the first divine king of the Yoruba, while Obàtálá is believed to have created the first humans out of clay. The Oòni (or king) of Ife claims direct descent from the undergod Oduduwa, and is counted first among Yoruba kings. He is traditionally considered to be the 401st deity (òrìshà), the only one that speaks. According to historians, the town's habitation can be traced as far back as 350 BCE. The meaning of the word "ife" in the Yoruba language is "expansion"; "Ile-Ife" is therefore a reference to the myth of origin "The Land of Expansion". In fact, the city is commonly regarded as the origin of the Yoruba culture.

Mythic origin of Ife


The Yoruba claim to have originated in Ife. According to their mythology
Yoruba mythology
The Yorùbá religion comprises the original religious beliefs and practices of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland...

, Olorun, the Supreme God, ordered Obatala
Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...

 to create the earth but on his way he found palm wine, drank it and became intoxicated. Therefore the younger brother of the latter, Oduduwa
Oduduwa
Oduduwa Omoluabi, Olofin Adimula, Emperor of the Yoruba, phonetically written by his people as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings....

, took the three items of creation from him, climbed down from the heavens on a chain and threw a handful of earth on the primordial ocean, then put a cockerel on it so that it would scatter the earth, thus creating the land on which Ile Ife would be built. Oduduwa planted a palm nut in a hole in the newly formed land and from there sprang a great tree with sixteen branches, a symbolic representation of the clans of the early Ife city-state. The usurpation of creation by Oduduwa gave rise to the ever lasting conflict between him and his brother Obatala, which is still re-enacted in the modern era by the cult groups of the two clans during the Itapa New Year festival.

Migratory origin of Ife


Another origin story from the Yoruba is that they were the product of intermarriage between a small band of invaders from the savanna slightly to the North East and the indigenous inhabitants of the forest. According to this version, Oduduwa was the son of Lamurudu, a prince from the east , possibly related to the ancient Nok culture of the savanna. Oduduwa and the natives left their homeland at some point between the first and the seventh centuries A.D. After wandering for some time, they found and settled the state of Ife.

Oduduwa
Oduduwa
Oduduwa Omoluabi, Olofin Adimula, Emperor of the Yoruba, phonetically written by his people as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings....

 thereafter had sons, daughters and a grandson who went on to found their own kingdoms and empires, namely Ila Orangun, Owu
Owu kingdom
The ethnic people of Owu are part of the Yoruba tribe of West Africa. Ago-Owu in Abeokuta is where the Owus are mostly concentrated, however large Owu settlements are found throughout the Yoruba kingdom...

, Ketu
Ketu (Benin)
Ketu is a historical location in present day Republic of Benin. It is one of the oldest capitals of the Yoruba speaking people, tracing its establishment to a settlement founded by a daughter of Oduduwa, also known as Odudua, Oòdua and Eleduwa...

, Sabe
Benin
Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...

, Popo, Oyo
Oyo Empire
The Oyo Empire was a Yoruba empire of what is today southwestern Nigeria. The empire was established before the 14th century and grew to become one of the largest West African states encountered by European explorers. It rose to preeminence through its possession of a powerful cavalry and wealth...

 and Benin
Benin City
Benin City, is a city and the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a city approximately twenty-five miles north of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos...

. Oranmiyan, Oduduwa's last born, was one of his father's principal ministers and overseer of the nascent Edo empire after Oduduwa granted the plea of the Edo people for his governance. When Oranmiyan decided to go back to Ile Ife after a period of service in Benin
Benin City
Benin City, is a city and the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a city approximately twenty-five miles north of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos...

, he left behind a child named Eweka that he had had in the interim with an indigenous princess. The young boy went on to become the first legitimate ruler of the second Edo
Edo people
Edo is the name for the place, people and language of an ethnic group in Nigeria. Other Edo-speaking ethnic groups include the Esan and the Afemai...

 dynasty that has ruled what is now Benin from that day to this. Oranmiyan later went on to found the Oyo empire
Oyo Empire
The Oyo Empire was a Yoruba empire of what is today southwestern Nigeria. The empire was established before the 14th century and grew to become one of the largest West African states encountered by European explorers. It rose to preeminence through its possession of a powerful cavalry and wealth...

 that stretched at its height from the western banks of the river Niger to the Eastern banks of the river Volta. It would serve as one of the most powerful of Africa's medieval states prior to its collapse in the 19th century.

Art history



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.

The city was a settlement of substantial size between the 9th and 12th centuries, with houses featuring potsherd pavements. 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
Benin City
Benin City, is a city and the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a city approximately twenty-five miles north of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos...

 which, like the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo
Oyo
- Places :In Nigeria* The Oyo Empire or Kingdom, a former West-African empire that covered parts of modern-day Nigeria and Benin* Oyo State, a present-day state of Nigeria named after the Oyo Empire...

, developed into a major empire.

Bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 and terracotta art created by this civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 are significant examples of realism
Realism (visual arts)
Realism in the visual arts is a style that depicts the actuality of what the eyes can see. The term is used in different senses in art history; it may mean the same as illusionism, the representation of subjects with visual mimesis or verisimilitude, or may mean an emphasis on the actuality of...

 in pre-colonial African art.

In his book, "The Oral Traditions in Ile-Ife," Yemi D. Prince referred to the terracotta artists of 900 A.D. as the founders of Art Guilds, cultural schools of philosophy, which today can be likened to many of Europe's old institutions of learning which were originally established as religious bodies. These guilds may well be some of the oldest non-Abrahamic
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 African centres of learning to remain as viable entities in the contemporary world.

Traditional cults


Ife is well-known as the city of 401 or 201 deities. It is said that every day of the year the traditional worshippers celebrate a festival of one of these deities. Often the festivals extend over more than one day and they involve both priestly activities in the palace and theatrical dramatisations in the rest of the kingdom. The most spectacular festivals are those, which demand the participation of the King. They include the Itapa festival for Obatala
Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...

 and Obameri, the Edi festival for Moremi
Moremi
Moremi Ajasoro, Princess of the Yoruba was a figure of high significance in the history of the Yoruba peoples of West Africa. She was a member-by-marriage of the royal family of Emperor Oduduwa, the tribe's fabled founding father....

 and the Igare masqueraders
Mask
A mask is an article normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes...

, and the Olojo festival for Ogun
Ogun
Ogun can refer to:*Ogoun , a divinity in Yoruba and Haitian mythology*Ogun River, a river in southwestern Nigeria*Ogun State, a state in southwestern Nigeria*Ogun Records, a record label...

. During the festivals and at other occasions the traditional priests
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 offer prayers for the blessing of their own cult-group, the city of Ile Ife, the Nigerian nation and the whole world.

The Ooni


The royal dynasty of Ife is over 800 years old. The present ruler is Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II
Olubuse II
Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, or Sijuade, became the fiftieth traditional ruler or Ooni of Ife in 1980, taking the regnal name Olubuse II.Ife is a traditional Yoruba state based in the town of Ife in Osun State, Nigeria....

, styled His Imperial Majesty by his subjects due to the fact that he is one of the two pretender
Pretender
A pretender is one who claims entitlement to an unavailable position of honour or rank. Most often it refers to a former monarch, or descendant thereof, whose throne is occupied or claimed by a rival, or has been abolished....

s to the defunct title of High King
High king
A high king is a king who holds a position of seniority over a group of other kings, without the title of Emperor; compare King of Kings.Rulers who have been termed "high king" include:...

 of the Yoruba, the other being the Alaafin of Oyo
Oyo
- Places :In Nigeria* The Oyo Empire or Kingdom, a former West-African empire that covered parts of modern-day Nigeria and Benin* Oyo State, a present-day state of Nigeria named after the Oyo Empire...

. The Ooni ascended his throne in 1980.
About eight years ago it was agreed that the Ooni be the head of the Oba council and is still acknowledged as the first class Oba basically making him the king of kings amongst the Yoruba people.

The modern town


Today a mid-sized city, Ife is home to both the Obafemi Awolowo University
Obafemi Awolowo University
Obafemi Awolowo University is a government-owned and -operated Nigerian university. The university is in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria...

 and the Natural History Museum of Nigeria. Its people are of the Yoruba
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

, one of the largest ethno-linguistic groupings in Africa and its Diaspora (The population of the Yoruba outside of their homeland is said to be more than the population of Yoruba, about 35 million, in Nigeria.). Ife has a local television station
Television station
A television station is a business, organisation or other such as an amateur television operator that transmits content over terrestrial television. A television transmission can be by analog television signals or, more recently, by digital television. Broadcast television systems standards are...

 called NTA Ife, and is home to various businesses. It is also the trade center for a farming region where Yams
Yam (vegetable)
Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea . These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania...

, cassava
Cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

, grain
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

, cacao, and tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 are grown. Cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 is also produced, and is used to weave cloth. Hotel
Hotel
A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. The provision of basic accommodation, in times past, consisting only of a room with a bed, a cupboard, a small table and a washstand has largely been replaced by rooms with modern facilities, including en-suite bathrooms...

s in Ilé-Ife include Hotel Diganga Ife-Ibadan road, Mayfair Hotel, Obafemi Awolowo University Guest House etc. Ilé-Ife has a stadium
Stadium
A modern stadium is a place or venue for outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or stage either partly or completely surrounded by a structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.)Pausanias noted that for about half a century the only event...

 with a capacity of 9,000 and a second division professional league football
Football (soccer)
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball...

 team.

Philosophy


Although religion is often considered first in Yoruba culture, nonetheless it is the philosophy, the thought of man and the reasoning of the mind that actually dictates to the faculty (ori) that leads the faculty to the creation and the practice of any religion. Both the philosophy and the traditional religion, therefore, as well as the folklore of the land can be said to have emanated from Ile-Ife, inasmuch as the holy city is said to be the birthplace of the Yoruba people, and the mythical matrix of humankind.

Exhibition


A major exhibition entitled Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures of West Africa, displaying works of art found in Ife and the surrounding area, was held in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 from 4 March to 4 July 2010.

See also


  • History of the Yoruba Race
  • Legends of Africa
    Legends of Africa
    Africa has a wealth of history which is largely unrecorded. Myths, fables and legends abound.-Imhotep of Egypt:The father of medicine, the first architect, the builder of first pyramid....

  • List of rulers of Ife

External links