By William Dewey
Pennsylvania State University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Yoruba (Ife) peoples

Animal head


H. 12.5 cm (4 15/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 72.18a

Photo by Dirk Bakker


Animal figures are not as common as human imagery in the corpus of Ife art.  This terracotta representation of a creature, perhaps a hippopotamus, was discovered atop a globular pot at a site known as Lafogido. Lafogido was, according to tradition, a former king of Ife and belonged to one of four ruling lineages. Ekpo Eyo excavated this site and found a series of pots with animal shaped covers arranged around a potsherd pavement thought to overlie a grave. Note how the royal crest seen on crowns is displayed on the creature's forehead. Eyo had to stop the excavation, because the Oni became concerned that since he was not of the Lafogido lineage the dig might offend the other families (Eyo and Willett 1980: 13). Other animal images at this site include elephants and rams, all apparently used as offerings or equated with the power of the king.