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    Igbo-Ukwu Art

    Igbo-Ukwu is notable for three archaeological sites, where excavations have found bronze artifacts from a highly sophisticated bronze metal-workingculture dating perhaps to the ninth or tenth century, centuries before other known bronzes of the region.

    The first, called Igbo Isaiah, was uncovered in 1938 by Isaiah Anozie, a local villager, who found the bronze works while digging beside his home. Five bronze artefacts from the original excavation are now in the British Museum’s collection.[4] They include a small staff, a head of a ram, a large manilla, an intricately designed crescent-shaped vessel and a small pendant in the shape of a tribal chief’s head with tattoo marks on the face.

    Formal excavations by the archaeologist Thurstan Shaw in 1959 at the request of the Nigerian government, resulted in the discovery of two other sites, Igbo Richard and Igbo Jonah, containing the remains of an ancient culture. Later, these were excavated as well. Artifacts have included jewelry,ceramics, a corpse adorned in what appears to be regalia, and many assorted bronze, copper, and iron objects. Some of these contain materials that are evidence of a long-distance trading system extending to Egypt.

    Radiocarbon dating placed the sites around the tenth century or earlier, which would make the Igbo-Ukwu culture the earliest-known example of bronze casting in the region. The craftsmen were working centuries before those who made the more well-known Ife bronzes. The archaeological sites in southeastern Nigeria are associated with the Nri-Igbo. The three sites include Igbo Isaiah (a shrine), Igbo Richard (a burial chamber), and Igbo Jonah (a cache)

    • Art comes from archaeological sites found in eastern Nigeria.
    • Consists of objects made from bronze, terracotta, beads and ivory.
    • They are believed to date to around the 1200 B.P (800A.D).
    • Objects discovered in ancient burial chambers, shrines, and storage areas.
    • Made by sophisticated bronze casting techniques.
    • Objects include bronze pendants, bowls, and shells.
    Pendant representing a human head with scarification marks.

    One of the few human representations at Igbo-Ukwu.


    • Triton shell with elaborate surface decoration including flies, crickets, frogs, and snakes.
    • The form of this 9th century bronze bowl appears to be based on a large globular gourd.
    • It is decorated on the outside with raised horizontal and vertical loops in bands.


    • This unique vessel has been described as one of the most sophisticated examples of Igbo-Ukwu bronzes.
    • It is a water vessel resting on a stand encasted by ropework.



    Kings and Gods were often depicted with large heads because the artists believed that the Ase was held in the head, the Asebeing the inner power and energy of a person. Both historic figures of Ife and the offices associated with them are represented. One of the best documented among this is the early king Obalufon II who is said to have invented bronze casting and is honored in the form of a naturalistic copper life-size mask.

    The city was a settlement of substantial size between the 12th and 14th centuries, with houses featuring potsherd pavements. Ilé-Ifè is known worldwide for its ancient and naturalistic bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, which reached their peak of artistic expression between 1200 and 1400 A.D. In the period around 1300 C.E. the artists at Ife developed a refined and naturalistic sculptural tradition in terracotta, stone and copper alloy – copper, brass, and bronze many of which appear to have been created under the patronage of King Obalufon II, the man who today is identified as the Yoruba patron deity of brass casting, weaving and regalia.  After this period, production declined as political and economic power shifted to the nearby kingdom of Benin which, like the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, developed into a major empire.

    Bronze and terracotta art created by this civilization are significant examples of naturalism in pre-colonial African art and are distinguished by their variations in regalia, facial marking patterns, and body proportions. Ancient Ife also was famous for its glass beads which have been found at sites as far away as Mali, Mauritania, and Ghana.


    • Art comes from archaeological sites found in western Nigeria.
    • Consists of objects made from terracotta, bronze, and stone.
    • Objects date 1000-500 B.P (1000 and 1500 A.D).
    • Believed to be created for the ruling elite.
    • Idealized naturalism.
    • Full length figures and busts are common.
    • Figures are sometimes heavily beaded.


    Idena (gatekeeper).  Has iron nails in its coiffure and elaborately tied sash. Staff of Oranmiyan.  18 feet in height studded with spiral-headed nails.


    Child of Obatala (creation divinity).  The sculpture probably depicts a ritual specialist indicated by the bead on his forehead and the skull pendant. Probable image of a queen with an elaborately beaded headdress. Sculpture of possible queen with facial striations and elaborate head gear. From 1000-700 B.P (1000-1300 A.D).



    Benin art is the art from the Kingdom of Benin or Edo Empire (1440-1897), a pre-colonial African state located in what is now known as the South-South region of Nigeria. Primarily made of cast bronze and carved ivory, Benin art was produced mainly for the court of the Oba of Benin – a divine ruler for whom the craftsmen produced a range of ceremonially significant objects. The full complexity of these works can be appreciated only through the awareness and consideration of two complementary cultural perceptions of the art of Benin: the Western appreciation of them primarily as works of art, and their understanding in Benin as historical documents and as mnemonic devices to reconstruct history, or as ritual objects. This original significance is of great import in Benin.



    The Nupe, traditionally called the Tapa by the neighbouring Yoruba, are an ethnic group located primarily in the Middle Belt and northern Nigeria, and are the dominant group in Niger State and an important minority in Kwara State.


    The Nupe trace their origin to Tsoede who fled the court of Idah and established a loose confederation of towns along the Niger in the 15th century. The proximity of Nupe to the Yoruba Igbomina people in the south and to the Yoruba Oyo people in the southwest led to cross-fertilization of cultural influences through trade and conflicts over the centuries. It is said that the famous Yoruba oba or king, Shango (also known as Jakuta) who was once an Alaafin of Oyo before being deified following his death, was the son of a Nupe (Tapa) woman.

    Many Nupe were converted to Islam at the end of the eighteenth century by Mallam Dendo, a wandering preacher, and were incorporated into the Fulani Empire established by the Jihad led by Usman dan Fodio after 1806.

    However, the traditions of Nupe were retained, hence the ruler of Nupe is the Etsu Nupe rather than being called Emir. The city of Bidafell to the colonialist British forces in 1897, the Etsu Abubakar was deposed and replaced by the more pliable Muhammadu (Vandeleur 1898). During the reign of Muhammadu, a Prince named Jimada moved to Patigi, northeast of Bida (not to be confused with near-identically spelt Pategi, southwest of Bida, on the southern and opposite bank of the Niger River) protesting against being ruled by a Fulani . Now Jimada’s descendants are fighting for the post of Etsu Nupe claiming to be the only existing pure Nupe ruling family.  The present Etsu Nupe is Yahaya Abubakar



    There are probably about 3.5 million Nupes, principally in Niger State, although a small but growing diaspora of Nupe can be found in Knowle in the West Midlands of England. The Nupe language is also spoken in Kwara and Kogi States. They are primarily Muslims, with a few Christians and followers of African Traditional Religion. The Nupe people have several local, traditional rulers. The Etsu Nupe (Bida) is not Nupe and is actually part of the Fula tribe but they came to rule the Bida in the 1806. They have no present capital, although they were originally based at Rabah and only moved to Bida in the nineteenth century.

    Traditions, art and culture.

    mask made out of wood and used during bird hunting. The hunter would tie the mask around his head and imitate the bird’s movement.

    The Nupe people have various traditions. Much of their culture was diluted by the Usman Dan Fodio jihad of the 19th century, but they still hold on to some of their culture which is very similar to that of ancient Egypt. Many Nupe people often have tribal scars on their faces (similar to an old Yoruba tradition), some to identify their prestige and the family of which they belong as well as for protection, as well as jewelry adornment. But these traditions are dying out in certain areas. Their art is often abstract. They are well known for their wooden stools with patterns carved onto the surface.


    Owo, ART

    Owo is a city in the Ondo state of Nigeria. Between the years 1400 and 1600 AD, it was the capital of a Yoruba city-state.

    According to Owo historian Chief Ashara, the name Owo was derived from the first ruler, or Olowo of Owo, named Ojugbelu. His pleasant manner earned him the name Owo, meaning respectful, and the name was passed on to his descendants and followers.


    In their oral tradition, Owo traces its origins to the ancient city of Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba culture.  Oral tradition also claims that the founders were the sons of the Yoruba deity Odudua, who was the first ruler of Ile-Ife. The early art-historical and archaeological records reinforce these strong affiliations with Ife culture.  Owo was able to maintain virtual independence from the neighboring kingdom of Benin, but was on occasion required to give tribute.  The transmission of courtly culture flowed in both directions between the Benin and the Owo kingdoms. The skill of Owo’s ivory carvers was also appreciated at the court of Benin. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Benin’s rulers increasingly utilized insignia made from ivory, and imported Owo’s art objects and recruited its artisans for their own royal workshops.[4] There were other notable artworks that can be evidently supported.

    Owo came under British rule in 1893. After Nigeria declared independence in 1960, it was part of the Western Region until 1967 when it became part of the Western State. Owo and its indigenes played significant roles in the politics of the first Republic, in Nigeria. In 1976, it became part of the newly created Ondo State.


    The present-day city is an agricultural center involved in the growing and trade of yams, cassava, maize, okra, peppers, cocoa, and cotton. There are however other meaningful commercial activities in the town including but not limited to, timber and sawmilling, Soya beans processing plant and block making industries. The town is dotted with branches of some of the foremost banks like, First Bank Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, Enterprise Bank Ltd. (former Omega Bank Plc) etc. The city is now witnessing a dramatic change due to expansion of its road network, particularly dualization of the main road beginning from Emure junction up to Iyere exit. A new Ultra-modern market is now open in Owo.


    Esiẹ is a town in Kwara State in Nigeria.

    The town was founded by prince Baragbon circa 1770. The dialect of Yoruba spoke in Esie is predominantly Igbonna. The town has a king who is Oba Yakubu Babalola Egunjobi 2.

    It is home to the Esiẹ Museum which was the first museum to be established in Nigeria.


    Ibibio art

    The Ibibio are a people of southeastern Nigeria. They are related to the Anaang, the Efik and Igbo peoples. During colonial period in Nigeria, the Ibibio Union asked for recognition by the British as a sovereign nation (Noah, 1988). The Annang, Efik, Ekid, Oron and Ibeno share personal names, culture, and traditions with the Ibibio, and speak closely related varieties of Ibibio-Efik.


    The Ibibio people are found predominantly in Akwa Ibom state and is made up of the related Anaang community, the Ibibio community and the Eket and Oron Communities, although other groups usually understand the Ibibio language. Because of the larger population of the Ibibio people, they hold political control over Akwa-Ibom State, but government is shared with the Anaangs, Eket and Oron. The political system follows the traditional method of consensus. Even though elections are held, practically, the political leaders are pre-discussed in a manner that is benefiting to all.

    Location of Ibibioland

    The Ibibio people are located in Southeastern Nigeria also known as Coastal Southeastern Nigeria. Prior to the existence of Nigeria as a nation, the Ibibio people were self-governed. The Ibibio people became a part of the Eastern Nigeria of Nigeria under British colonial rule. During the Nigerian Civil War, the Eastern region was split into three states. Southeastern State of Nigeria was where the Ibibio were located, one of the original twelve states of Nigeria) after Nigerian independence. The Efik, Anaang, Oron, Eket and their brothers and sisters of the Ogoja District, were also in the Southeastern State. The state (Southeastern State) was later renamed Cross Rivers State. On 23 September 1987, by Military Decree No.24, Akwa Ibom State was carved out of the then Cross Rivers State as a separate state.Cross Rivers State remains as one of neighbouring states.

    Southwestern Cameroon was a part of present Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. During the then Eastern Region of Nigeria it got partitioned into Cameroon in a 1961 plebiscite. This resulted in the Ibibio, Efik, and Annang being divided between Nigeria and Cameroon. However, the leadership of the Northern Region of Nigeria was able to keep “Northwestern section” during the plebiscite that is now today’s Nigerian Adamawa and Taraba states.



    The Ikom monoliths (Akwasnshi in the local Ejagham dialect) are large carved stones spread over thirty communities in the Ikom LGA. They were declared an ancient monument by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments on March 19, 1963. The stones are arranged in circles, vary between one and two metres in height and are intricately decorated with geometric patterns, symbols and inscriptions. Although the carvings on the stones differ, each has the shape of a human torso. Most of the stones are made of basaltic rocks, while a few are sandstone and shelly limestone. Environmental (exposure to extremes of rainfall and sunlight, erosion and deterioration as resulting from humidity) and human (vandalism and theft) threats to the stones led to their inclusion on the 2008 World Monuments Fund Watch Sites list. They are also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List.

    Alok Ikom Stone Monoliths


    Akwasnshi/Atal as the monolith is called among the Ejagham people of the Cross River State is distributed among over” thirty communities. In each community, the stones are found in circles, sometimes perfect circles, facing each other standing erect, except where they have been tampered with by weather or man.

    In some cases, the stones are found in the center of the village or in the central meeting place of the village elders, as in the case of Alok and Agba communities. In Etinan and Nabrokpa communities, the stones are located in an area of uncultivated forest outside the villages. The majority of the stones are carved in hard, medium-textured basaltic rock, a few are carved in sandstone and shelly limestone. The common features of the monoliths are that they are hewn into the form of a phallus ranging from about three feet in height to about five and half feet and are decorated with carvings of geometric and stylized human features, notably two eyes, an open mouth, a head crowned with rings, a stylized pointed beard, an elaborately marked navel, two decorative hands with five fingers, a nose, various shape of facial marks.

    Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

    The stone monoliths of Alok Ikom bear a form of writing and a complex system of codified information. Although they seem to share the same general features, each stone, like the human finger print, is unique from every other stone in its design and execution.

    The geometric images on the monoliths suggest that their makers possessed more than a basic knowledge of mathematics, not only because they are geometric, but also because of the obvious implication that there were computations and numbers on the layout of the stones.

    Comparison with other similar properties

    The Ikom monoliths with their geometric inscriptions could be compared to the rock Arts of Tanzania. The meanings of the codified symbol are known to only the artists. These are also associated with their origin, which is like most rock art works in Africa. Ikom monoliths could be West Africa’s answer to United Kingdom’s Stonehenge.

    They are similar in arrangement and ordering to the Stone circuits in the Gambia, but unique in their complexity of design and interpretation.


    See also






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