African art > Bronze, leopard, messenger, warrior, statue, pirogues > Bronze head
Tête Ifé Oni (N° 15059)
In African art, the artistic current of which these sculptures belong is named after the ancient religious capital of Nigeria, Ifè, one of the many city-states established by the Yoruba.This civilization succeeded the Nok civilization. This city-state of Ilé-Ifé, whose growth culminated from the 12th to the 15th century, had an artistic tradition of realistic royal portraits, bronze and terracotta funerary effigies. The parallel folds drawn on the neck would evoke the folds of flesh of the prosperous notables, and the hollowed-out parts that accompany it were to be used to secure the king's beaded veil. The parallel lines of the face are traditional scarifications. The holes around the mouth likely symbolized a beard created by the insertion of hair or beads.
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The bronze heads were made using the lost wax technique, a technique that may have been imported from Sudan or brought back from the outskirts of the Mediterranean by itinerant blacksmiths who used it to make knives and bells.
The title of Ooni refers to the religious leader of Ifè. At the time of accession to the throne, the king sent presents to the Ooni in office. The latter responded with three objects symbolizing power and authority: a stick, a cap and a copper cross. After seven years of rule, the king was put to death and replaced. These bronze heads were intended for use in funeral ceremonies.
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