Arts and Culture

ILE-IFE: YORUBA ANCESTRAL HOME AND ORIGIN

Ile-Ife or Ife is an ancient Yoruba city in Southwestern Nigeria. It is located in Osun State and it is about 218 kilometers northeast. Ile-ife has a population of 509,813. It is named as the city of 401 deities. Ife is home to many worshippers of these deities which are also celebrated through festivals.

The city is the ancestral home of the Yoruba tribe through Oduduwa. Along with the culture of Ife, their beliefs extend along the concept of the Ase, which help make art of the Kings and gods. The Ife royal dynasty is over centuries old. Ile-Ife is famous all over the world for its ancient and naturalistic bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, dating back to between 1200 and 1400 A.D.

BRIEF HISTORY

According to Yoruba traditional religion, Ife was founded by the order of the Supreme God Olodumare to Obatala and then fell into the hands of his brother Oduduwa. Oduduwa created turmoil between the two and then created his own dynasty through his sons and daughters that became different rulers of many kingdoms.

The first Ooni (the paramount ruler of Ile-Ife and Yoruba land) of Ife is a descendant of Oduduwa, which was the 401st Orisha (spirit). Oduduwa became the ancestor of the divine king of the Yoruba, while Obatala is believed to have created the first Yoruba people out of clay. ‘’Ife’’ in Yoruba means ‘’expansion’’, ‘’Ile-Ife ‘’ therefore in reference to the myth of origin as ‘’The land of expansion’’.

Oduduwa had sons and daughters, and a grandson, who went on to found their own kingdoms and empires out of Ife. They are; Ila Orangun, Owu, Ketu, Sabe, Popo and Oyo. Oduduwa’s last son, Oranmiyan was the overseer of the nascent Edo Empire. Oranmiyan was also credited to have found the Oyo Empire. The empire serves as one of the most powerful of Africa’s medieval states, prior to its collapse in 19th century.

CULTURE AND TRADITION

The Ooni (or king) of Ife is a descendant of the godking Oduduwa, and is counted first among the Yoruba kings. He is traditionally considered the 401st spirit (Orisha). The present ruler is Ooni, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, styled His Imperial Majesty by his subjects.

As a city of deities, there are numerous festivals performed in Ife to celebrate these deities everyday of the year. Historically the king only appear in public during the annual Olojo festival; other important festivals here include the Itapa festival for Obatala and Obameri, Edi festival for Moremi Ajasoro, and the Igare masquerades.

Ile-Ife is famous with bronze and terracotta sculptures. One of the early kings, Obalufon II is said to have invented bronze casting and is honored in the form of a naturalistic copper life-size mask. This has made Ife to be famous worldwide dating back to between 1200 and 1400 A.D.

LANGUAGE

The main language spoken in Ife is the Yoruba language widely spoken in Nigeria, some parts of Africa and parts of Brazil.

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