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Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa

Ram figure, Osangangan Obamakin, Ife. Terracotta, 12th-15th century. Copyright Karin L. Willis/Museum for African Art/Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa is on display at the British Museum until June 6, 2010.

This major exhibition presents exquisite examples of brass, copper, stone and terracotta sculptures from West Africa.

The Kingdom of Ife (pronounced ee-feh) was a powerful, cosmopolitan and wealthy city-state in West Africa – in what is now modern south-west Nigeria.

Ife flourished as a political, spiritual, cultural and economic centre in the 12th – 15th centuries AD, and was an influential hub of local and long-distance trade networks.

The exhibition features superb pieces of life sculpture, drawn almost entirely from the magnificent collections of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria.

The artists of Ife developed a refined and highly naturalistic sculptural tradition in stone, terracotta, brass and copper to create a style unlike anything in Africa at the time. The technical sophistication of the casting process is matched by the artworks’ enduring beauty.

The human figures portray a wide cross-section of Ife society and include images of youth and old age, health and disease, suffering and serenity.

Kingdom of Ife Gallery

Tickets: Adult £8, 16-18 years £7, Under 16 years free (when accompanied by an adult), Student, Unemployed and Disabled £7.

Times: Daily from 10am to 5.30pm (last entry at 4.20pm). Open late Thursday and Friday until 8.30pm (last admission at 7.20pm).

British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG