A sculpture from the legendary city of Ife (pronounced ee-feh) in West Africa which flourished as a powerful, cosmopolitan and wealthy city-state and today it’s seen as the spiritual heartland of the Yoruba people in modern day Nigeria. According to Yoruba myth, Ife was the centre of the creation of the world and all mankind and the area is regarded as the birthplace of some of the highest achievements of African art and culture.
The city’s forests were home to many sacred groves, two in particular have yielded important sculptures: the Ore Grove with its stone monoliths, human and animal figures; and the Iwinrin Grove which is associated with terracotta heads and fragments from life-size figures. Figurative terracotta sculptures are the largest group of works, some have royal associations including the only known complete king figure and a terracotta head, thought to be a queen. But there are also terracotta animals – an elephant and a hippopotamus head found at the royal burial site of Lafogido.