By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

King of Ijebu-Ife, Yoruba peoples, central Ijebu area, Nigeria, 1982. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. 


The ruler is identified both by his costume, which is more elaborate or costly than that of other members of the court, or of a type that is reserved exclusively for the use of the ruler. In addition he is surrounded by symbols of power such as umbrellas of state, staffs, swords, and a large entourage of attendants and court officials. The Ajalorun (King) of Ijebu-Ife sits in state during the annual Ifowa festival.  He carries a beaded walking stick and shakes an ornate brass staff containing crotals that ring out a-se, "so be it" in response to blessings from the priests. The staff spoke for the King, who historically did not speak in public. Behind the King's left shoulder, a chief holds the umbrella.