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The ancient city of Ile-Ife

Encyclopedia » History

Ile-lfe an ancient city in Yoruba land south-western Nigeria was discovered in 500 AD. It was where the founding deities of Oduduwa and Obatala began the creation of the world as directed by the paramount deity Olodumare.

Historically, Olodumare the supreme God ordered Obatala to create the earth but on his way to carry out the duty he drank a palm wine and got intoxicated. That was how Oduduwa took the three items of creation from him, climbed down from heaven on a chain and threw a handful of earth on the primordial ocean, he then put cockerel on it so that it would scatter the earth for him to create a land where lle-lfe will be built. When the newly formed land was built he planted a palm nut in a hole where it sprang a great tree with sixteen branches that represents the symbolic clans of the early lfe city. The intrusion of creation by oduduwa gave rise to the everlasting conflict between him and his brother Obatala which still exist till today during the Itapa New Year Festival. In spite all these, Oduduwa was the ancestor of the first king of Yoruba land while Obatala was the first person to create humans out of clay.

Immigration from ancient Near East

Another origin of Ife has it that Oduduwa the son of Lamurudu a prince from near east who migrated with his people and the cult objects from Arabia to the central Sudan where he found the town of Ife. Oduduwa and his followers left their homeland as early as the end of 17th century BCE. It is also believed that Yoruba’s were the product of intermarriage between a group of invaders from the ancient near east and indigenous inhabitants of the forest. They also have a relationship with ancient Nok culture of the savanna and is been recognized by similarities in their artistic and technological techniques of the two.


Origin of the regional states

Oduduwa who had sons, daughters and a grandson, went on to find their own kingdoms and empires, namely lla Orangun, Owu, Ketu, Sabe, Popo, Oyo and Benin. Oranmiyan, Oduduwa’s last born was one of his father’s principal ministers and overseer of the ancient Benin Empire after Oduduwa granted plea from Benin people for his governance. Oranmiyan decided to go back to lle-lfe after a period of service in Benin; he left behind a child called Eweka which he had with indigenous princess. The young boy went on to become the first legitimate ruler of the second Benin dynasty who ruled what is now the present Benin kingdom. Oranmiyan later went on to found Oyo Empire that its height from the western bank of the river Niger to the east banks of river Volta. And it served as one of the powerful Africa’s medieval states before its collapse in 19th Century.

 Traditional setting of lle-lfe

Ooni the direct descent from Oduduwa is counted as the first Yoruba Kings. He is considered to be 401st deity (orisha) the only one that speaks on issues affecting the kingdom. It was agreed eight years ago that the Ooni be the head of the Oba council and he is acknowledged as the first class Oba making him the king of all kings among the Yoruba’s and it acquired him international stature.

Ife is known as the city of 401 deities, very year traditional worshippers celebrate one of the deities and the festivals last more than one day. It also involves priestly activities and theatrical dramatization in the rest of the kingdom. The most salient festival is the one that demand the participation of the king it includes Itapa festival for Obatala and Obameri, Edi festival for Moremi, the lgare masqueraders, and Olojo festival for Ogun. During these festivals they offer prayers for the blessing of their own cult group and ile-lfe city.

Ife Art

Ife developed a major artistic center in 700 and 900 A.D important people were depicted with large heads because the artists believe that Ase was held in the head. Ase is known as being the inner power and energy of a person. Their traditional rulers were also depicted with their mouth covered so that the power of their speech would not be too great.

There also were a substantial settlement size between 9th and 12th centuries with their houses featuring potsherd pavement their ancient and naturalistic bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures which showed there artistic expression between 1200 and 1400  A.D were known worldwide  after this period, production declined as political and economic power shifted to the nearby Benin kingdom.

Ile-lfe the cradle of Yoruba’s, the city of survivors, spiritual seat of the Yoruba’s, where the dawn of the day was first experienced, the source, the head of the whole universe, the land  of the most ancient days, the home  of divinities and to the people of lfe “ILURUN” that is the gateway to heaven.

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Updated 6 Years ago

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