Ife Museum and Oba’s Palace in Ile-Ife, Nigeria

The ride from Benin City to Ile-Ife was not as difficult as my prior overland travel in Nigeria. Evangelist Christians are omnipresent in most of the southern part of the country with Muslims predominating in the north and traditional animist and other religions hanging on to survival a bit behind the scenes.

Christian Decorations on Back of Truck, Route from Benin City to Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Ile-Ife, Nigeria

The Ife Museum in Ile-Ife had the following exhibits–
Musical instruments:

Rattles (calabash)

Metal gong

Gan-gan (talking drum with stick)

Saworo (metal musical instrument)

Metal ornaments:

Bracelets, ring, from 10-11th century CE, beautiful designs, woman-figures

Ibeji twin figures

Yoruba consider twins a source of blessing, bring good fortune to parents

Barren women can approach Ogun during Olojo festival to gain fertility, possibly even twins

Ibom masquerade among Efik people in Calabar – snake-like cords and raffia skirt

King and Queen, probably Ooni and wife, his left leg around her right leg, many beads in their crowns, beads on hands, chest, feet, rings on second toes, excavated by Frank Willet at Ita-Yemoo, dated 11-12th century CE, bronze, his face brown, her face green

Emir of Kano’s fara (jester)

Royal stool, terracotta, largest known in Africa from Iwinrin Grove, Ile-Ife, human figure standing on four-legged rectangular stool, behind him a pole of some king with a protrusion over the stool and between its feet

Olokun head, god(dess?) of the sea, giver of children, healer of abdominal disease, treat water with herbs for drinking

Ceremonial Insignia

Heavy next ring with spiral decorations at bottom of think neck loop

Brass mace heads, with aged gagged men with hole for mounting on wood shaft

Brace scepters, one with gagged men, from Ita-Yemoo, Ife

Glass beads made at Olokun Grove, melted in crucibles, various colors, Segi blue beads the most valued by Yoruba, thin and long, light blue

Animal Life

Rams, goats, kids represent offerings to gods and ancestors

Dogs also perhaps, but also as human companion

Snakes and chameleons are sacred

Monkeys in legends

Owl unique in west African art

Yoruba oba may own 40-50 crowns, most made of colored beads, collars over necklaces of fold, fly-whisk of horse hair

Offering pots at shrine or sacred grove, or burial place

Ade Owo Eyo – crown of cowrie cells, worn by wealthy individuals

Hunter mask – skin-covered wooden mask worn as camouflage

Sango stool and staffs

Orere Ifa (Ifa priest staff)

Wooden tray for divination with palm nuts

Divination tray (wooden) – with Opele divination instrument, dried fruit of Schnebera Golugensis – has convex and concave surfaces

Araba – Ifa chief priest – bust adorned with cowries selected from male Ifa worshipers without facial marks, presides over Ifa meetings and annual Ifa festival proceedings

Ase juju – usually prepared inside horn of ram or goat, invoked for cursing or healing, protruding pin inside the Ase – when removed and touches tongue, becomes a potent force of command, cursing, or healing

Ojboni metal crown – conical with facial representation, secret cult originating in Yorubaland and spreading elsewhere

Beaded bag – used by Yoruba ritual specialists, esp. Ife diviners and Sango priests

Archaeology in Ife:

Lander, 1830

Elgee, 1908

Ennett, 1910

Frobenius excavated Olokun Grove

Wunmonjie finds in 1938

Osangangan Obamakin Grove, 1943

Abiri excavation by Bernard Fagg, 1949

Ogun Ladin, Olokuri Walode, Ogbon Oya, 1953

Yemoo, Frank Willet, until 1983

Obamari Grove and Oduduwa College, Oliver Myers, 1964 and 1966

Stone carvings from Ore (One?) Grove

Potsherds Pavement – Luwoo – during reign of only female ooni of Ife-Luwoo, c. 1100 CE

Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan staff)

Legend of sword that turns into obelisk

Oranminyan, youngest son of Odududwa, c. 1200-1300 CE

Husband of Moremi, heroine of Ife

Benin dynasty founded by Oranmiyan, married one of their daughters

Gave birth to Eulaka, first Oba of Benin

Then went to Oyo where his son Ajaka became Alaafin of Oyo

Oranmiyan then drove Ooni Aleyemore (son of Obalufon Ogbogboirin) off the throne of Ife (he had taken throne after Oduduwa’s death)

Ile-Oduduwa – location where Oduduwa believe to have resided

Oke Mogun (Ojobo) shrine, sacrifice offered to Ogun, god of iron, during Olojo festival, Ooni of Ife must visit twice to offer prayers for subjects during Olojo festival, only day when ooni dons the Are (or Ave?) crown

Igbo-Ukwu, 9th century CE, found burial chamber and art in 1938

Conical heads, used offerings at shrines or memorials to ancestors as tradition possibly elder than naturalistic heads

Crucibles found at Itajero used for making beads

Olokun Grove only place with both iron smelting and glass bead technology

Lokoloko stick – used to control crowd during Olojo festival

Osangangan Obamakin Grove – terracotta figure with elephantiasis of scrotum (Ile-Ife)

Ajilekege – granite head from Esure Ekiti, Ife

Stone vessel excavated from Orangangan Obamakin Grove – bubble at top suggesting palm wine fermentation, palm wine essential ritual item for Ogun during Olojo festival

Edan Ogboni – brass insignia worn around neck, male and female figures joined by chain, given to every member of Ogboni/Osugbo society among Yoruba

Ceremonial insignia of Yoruba cults:

Edau figure

Oluwo staff


Plier ceremonial tool

Small scythe-like ceremonial tool

Gun powder flask with double face

Ogboni bell for heralding commencement of meeting

Oluwo figure

Bell probably used by Ifa cult, tall conical brass, nine inches long

I almost didn’t get to see the Oba’s palace in Ile-Ife, but luckily some other tourists wanted to see it at the same time, so they gave us a little tour for a little price. It was there I learned about Moremi, “the heroine from premordial times” who, when captured as a slave by the Ugbo people eventually married the Ugbo ruler and became the queen to discover the secret of the Ugbo’s power so that she could bring it back to her people, the Yoruba, and defeat the Ugbo.

Statue of the Yoruba Heroine Moremi, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Statue of the Yoruba Heroine Moremi, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Carved Wooden Palace Door, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Carved Wooden Palace Door, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Carved Wooden Palace Door and Totem Pole, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Blurry Photo of Shrine to Ooni of Ife, Ooni Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Dark Photo Looking Onto Grounds, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Carved Wooden Totem Pole, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

1 thought on “Ife Museum and Oba’s Palace in Ile-Ife, Nigeria

  1. Thanks to those people who made this museum possible. This has put Ile Ife in the limelight and will also enhance the tourism industry of the city. Well done. I also thank Kabiesi the Imperial Majesty of Yoruba Land, the Ooni of Ife. May you reign over us for a long time. Igba Odin Odin kan.

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