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Brass head with beaded crown and plume
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These objects reveal different aspects of the cultures and history of West Africa in the XII to XV centuries. This striking brass sculpture represents a ruler (oni) from Ife, capital state of the Yoruba peoples, on the River Niger in southwestern Nigeria. The head was probably used in funerary ceremonies and may have been attached to a wooden figure. Ife was one of several powerful states and empires in West Africa during this period.

The art of Ife is unique in Africa in representing humans with an almost portrait-like realism. It has often been compared with European naturalistic traditions such as those of ancient Greece and Rome, and assumptions were made that Ife art had been influenced by these traditions. In fact, there is no historical connection with any European culture, and the sculpture of Ife is today rightly seen as one of the highest achievements of African art and culture.

Brass head with beaded crown and plume


Yoruba, from Ife, Nigeria, probably XII-XIV century AD.
Ht 36 cm.



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