The Ife culture and civilization was characterized by bronze, brass, copper, terracotta and stone works. More significant are the terracotta and bronze heads. Objects such as stools and figures were carved on hard stones called quartz, while animal and human figures were carved from granite and decorated with iron nails, for example, the casting of Oba Oranmiyan of Ile-Ife. Most of the bronze and terracotta heads were designed with facial marks. They are representations of past leaders. The Ife and Nok cultures share some similarities.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF IFE CULTURE IN NIGERIAN HISTORY
- Ife culture demonstrates the technological development of the people especially in the areas of tools used to carve images and heads.
- The culture shows that the people that later come to be called Nigerians took part in the various stages of human development like in the Stone Age period.
- The culture shows the cultural heritages and richness of the Nigerian culture.
- It proved the artistic potentials of the Nigerian people.
- It marked the transitional era between the Stone Age and the Iron Age in Nigeria because of the combination of both stone and iron objects found.
MAJOR IFE ARTEFACTS AND FIGURINES
The Ife civilization and its artefacts and figurines share some similar features with that of the Nok. Most Ife figurines come in terracotta and bronze head forms. Objects like tools, shapes and various figures especially of human heads, animals were carved on hard stones like granites and quartz and decorated. For example, the popular Ife casting of Oranmiyan of Ife. One major difference between the Ife figurines and Nok culture is that Ife figurines have facial marks and natural hair on it while Nok figurines were always identified with hole on their faces.
Tools like iron and bone tools are some artefacts accompanying the Ife civilization. Most historians believe that there are strong similarities between the Ife and Bini arts, that makes people believe in the strong relationship between the two civilisations.
IFE RELATIONS WITH HER NEIGHBOURS
The ancient Ife Kingdom is one of the most centralised amongst the Yoruba Kingdoms. Old Oyo Kingdom was also centralised. The Ife Kingdom shared a lot of relationship in terms of geography, culture, arts and traditions of origin with the people of old Oyo and Benin (Bini/Edo). This explains why we cannot discuss the history of Ife without making reference to her relationship with neighbours such as old Oyo and Benin.
It is a very popular tradition of origin that the Yoruba nation originated from Ife through the legendary figure of Oduduwa. Ife remains very significant in history because it came to be the centre of dispersal for rulers who later founded or led the establishment of other neighbouring Yoruba Kingdoms. No wonder most neighbouring groups later traced their political authority and ascendancy to Ife.
The Ooni of Ife was at the head of the Ife monarchy serving as the spiritual head of the Yoruba nation. The Ife arts and culture, for which it is well known, is also another important factor in the relationship between Ife and her neighbours. The influence or importance of the Ife arts and culture further complimented the spiritual significance of Ife with her neighbours. There are also evidences of arts and cultural similarities between Ife and her neighbours. For example, the Ife and Benin arts and casting, life-size sculptures in Terracotta, complement one another.
These were similar to the arts discovered in Nok. Magnificent bronze casting in Ife were exported to Benin her neighbour. These were part of the great artistic works which were carted away by the Europeans in the 19th century. All these show that Ife was never in isolation but related with her neighbours, sharing a lot of socio-political, religious, spiritual, artistic and cultural activities.
MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS OF IFE CULTURE
In the Ife culture, the kings and gods were often depicted with large heads because the artists believed that the “Axc” was held in the head. Axc refers to the inner power and energy of a person. Historic figures of Ife and their offices were, therefore, represented with large heads. For example, the King Obalufon II who was cast with a copper life-size mask has a large head.
Ife culture is known for its ancient natural bronze, stone and terracotta sculpture, which became more significant during the 1200 and 1400A.D. Ife culture is also famous for its facial marks pattern, regalia, body size and glass beads.