This bronze statue was created in the style of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It features a life-like human face – meant to portray an Ife (king) – a common Yoruban artform. This particular piece measures 14 inches tall and weighs 9 pounds. There is some corrosion and wear and tear throughout – please inspect photos.
Lifelike Yoruba Bronze Ife Head 14″ – Nigeria – African Art
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Some corrosion and wear and tear. Inspect photos carefully.
About the Yoruba People
The Yoruba are the largest cultural group on the African continent, with nearly 40 million people. The word ‘Yoruba’ describes both the language and a tribe living across Nigeria and the Popular Republic of Benin, in an area of forest and savannah.
The Yoruba people’s primary living space is South-West Nigeria with substantial Yoruba communities in Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone but they are not bound by state or country borders. This area is often referred to as “Yorubaland”. Most of the terrain is either forest, woodland savannah, rich farmland or coastal swamps and lagoons.
The origin of the Yoruba people in Nigeria is heavily debated. Some believe they came from the east in Mecca, some say from the north in Egypt. Evidence shows that ethnically, Yoruba’s have been in the area known as Yorubaland since the 7th century BC. Scholars believe the area was probably inhabited earlier by peoples of the Nok culture. Yorubaland covers the modern-day countries of Nigeria, Togo and Benin. The term Yoruba to describe ethnicity, did not come about until the 16th century and wasn’t widely used until the 19th century. Before then, the Yoruba people were known by many names depending on who was acknowledging them. For instance, the Europeans referred to them as Akú, whereas in Cuba, they were referred to as O luku mi.
Read more about the Yoruba here.
About the “Ife Head” Object
This piece is a representation of the original Ife Head that was unearthed in 1938 in Ile Ife. Created by the lost wax casting method, these bronzes were compared to ancient Roman or Greek art due to the astounding detail, realism and craftsmanship. Pieces like these are believed to have been created by the Yoruba since the 9th or 10th century.
About Lost-Wax Casting Method
In-direct lost wax casting is the most basic form of metal casting seen in African cultures. Scholars have yet to establish exactly how it was introduced and developed in West African regions, but it is known that it was being used prior to Portuguese explorers’ arrival in the late 1400’s.
To use this method, the artist must begin with a low melting point material that can retain its shape but is soft enough to carve intricate details into, such as beeswax. Once the artist finishes carving the details, layers of clay are applied to the outside and then left to dry. The first layer of clay applied takes on the details, while the additional layers of coarser clay provide strength to the entirety of the mold. Once fired, the wax is then melted, leaving only the baked clay shell. Liquid metal is then poured into the empty clay mold. Once the metal has hardened and cooled, the clay exterior is then broken. This process reveals the finished metal object, which is always unique due to the mold being destroyed during the final process.
Many West African sculptors have altered this method by using multiple castings, which can be used to create hollowed and thin metal figures. One of the ways to achieve the hollowed result is creating the wax sculptures over a formed clay core. Iron spikes are used to attach the solid clay core to the clay layers of the mold. The metal is then poured inside and left to cool and hardened. At the end of the process, the clay core is then broken up and removed and the final brass work is finished. These hollowed pieces can then be united to create larger figures or vessels.
Apley, Alice. (2001, October) African Lost-Wax Casting Essay. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wax/hd_wax.htm