Art and Centralized Power

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Nigeria; Yoruba (Ife) peoples

Head, possibly a king

Clay

H. 26.7 cm (10 1/2")

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas / Art Resource, NY, 1994.04

While some African states commanded standing armies, organized military operations, and instituted police forces and capital punishment, these manifestations of power are less prevalent than other more generative forms of power. Studies during the past three decades have advanced understandings of precolonial African political systems and indigenous definitions of power. A recurring motif in these studies is the interconnection between rulership and cosmology and explicitly the relationship between rulers and the natural and supernatural realms of their sovereignty.