A replica of one of the most famous items in the Ethnographic collections, the beautiful bronze Ife Head.
The original bronze statue represents the head of the Ooni, the king of Ife, wearing a crown partly painted in red to represent carnelian beads.
The head was found Ife, Nigeria, in in 1938 and probably dates to the 14th‐15th century AD. The stunning naturalism and sophisticated craftsmanship of the objects challenged Western perceptions of African art when it was found, which at the time were largely based around abstract wooden figures.
According to the oral traditions of the Yoruba people, Ife is the place where life and civilisation began. Ife is regarded as the legendary homeland of the Yoruba-speaking peoples and its sacred ruler, the Ooni, is still revered as the descendant of the original creator gods. Ife is located in Osun State in modern south-western Nigeria.
On his coronation, the Oni would have carried an animal horn in one hand filled with powerful medicines and in the other hand a wooden staff covered with a bead‐embroidered cloth. After the coronation this staff would be replaced with an irukere (beaded flywhisk): a symbol of his authority. A heavy beaded collar and badges would also be worn on his chest and forearms. His limbs would also be covered in beaded bracelets and anklets.
The head was probably used in funerary ceremonies and may have been attached to a wooden figure for ceremonial use.