Ife

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

Nigeria; Yoruba (Ife) peoples

Container

Clay

H. 24.9 cm (9 13/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.13

Photo by Dirk Bakker

 

This ritual pot has a series of decorations including: a head with snakes coming from the nostrils, “a pair of ceremonial staffs (edan), a nude woman, a different ceremonial staff, ... a pair of bushcow (buffalo) horns, a drum, a metal bracket, a shrine with what may be human skulls at the base... and a decapitated head and two snakes” (Eyo and Willett 1980: 110). The meaning is unknown, but this manner of arranging a composition in segments is also seen on a ritual pot excavated by Peter Garlake at Obalara’s Land (which depicts heads in use at an altar). Drewal notes that it is a compositional style Yoruba artists still use (1989: 64). Perhaps this pot was also (like the one at Obalara’s Land) once embedded in the center of a potsherd pavement, where offerings were poured during rites—a place the Yoruba call the ojuba, “the face of worship” (Drewal 1989: 62).