The region of Ife in Nigeria has become known
for the naturalism of its art in comparison to the
stylized art of other African regions. The area
also produced terracotta sculptures and works in
ivory, clay, wood, bronze, and even in quartz.
The Yoruba tribe regarded Ife as their place of
origin as told in the creation myths. The
craftsmanship of Ife was later passed on to the
kingdom of Benin, which being closer to the sea
was better known to early European travelers.
The later history of Ife is not yet well
documented except for the beautiful bronze
busts of kings such as this one.
This beautifully sculpted bronze bust of a young
nobleman or king is a perfect example of the
talented craftsmanship of the area of Ife in
Nigeria. His facial expression is one of serenity
and confidence, both in himself and in his
surroundings. In both hands, he holds two
objects that symbolise control and power. He
also wears a crown, emphasizing his rank in
His neck and chest are draped in traditional
jewelry. The vertical carving of the face, emulates
the tribal scaring he would have received. The
fact that the sculpture is made of metal rather
than wood emphasizes its value and the young
man's importance as well. The back of the
sculpture remains simple, suggesting that the
sculpture was meant to be seen frontally and not
necessarily in the round.
Ife bronzes are famous worldwide, recalling
Greek portrait sculpture, emphasizing muscles,
power, facial character, and mystery. Looking at
this handsome man, we can understand why.