Ife

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

Nigeria; Tsoede peoples

Seated figure

Copper

H. 53.7 cm (21 1/8")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.18

Photo by Dirk Bakker

 

This remarkable figure, cast of copper, clearly shares many of the naturalistic qualities and style traits of Ife sculpture, but is also slightly different. The head to body proportions are quite naturalistic, unlike any of the Ife full figures. This seated figure was found in the village of Tada, a Nupe town on the Niger River, 200 kilometers to the north Ife. The abraded surface is the result of recent generations of Tada villagers taking the figure to the river weekly and scrubbing it with gravel to insure the fertility of themselves and the fish, which were their food (Eyo and Willett 1980: 146). It has been dated through analysis of the clay core to the 13th century. Drewal suggests it was sent to the northern Yoruba town of Oyo as a symbol of their political alliance, but then captured by the Nupe (Drewal 1989: 69).