Dynasty and Divinity presents a major part of the extraordinary
corpus of ancient Ife art in terra-cotta, stone, and metal, dating
from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries. Artists at Ife, the
ancient city-state of the Yoruba people of West Africa (located in
present-day southwestern Nigeria), created sculpture that ranks
among the most aesthetically striking and technically sophisticated
in the world. Dynasty and Divinity reveals the extraordinarily
creative range of Ife art through a diversity of objects that
includes handsome idealized portrait heads, exquisite miniatures,
expressive caricatures of old age, lively animals, and sculptures
showing the impressive regalia worn by Ife's kings and queens.
Together, these illuminate one of the world's greatest art centers
and demonstrate the technological sophistication of Ife artists, as
well as the rich aesthetic language they developed in order to
convey ideas about worldly and divine power.--The refined
sculptures from Ife demonstrate the dignity and self-assurance
associated with the idea of dynasty, as well as the results of
misfortunes and violence that could befall human beings -- both
fates shaped by divine as well as human interventions. Among the
many masterpieces from Ife art in this book are a group of
life-size copper portrait heads, carved stone animals, and the
spectacular seated male figure found in the town of Tada, Nigeria,
shown dressed in an elaborate textile. Essays explore the
significance of Ife's stone, terra-cotta, and metal sculptures in
the context of Yoruba history and culture and consider the
significance of this portrayal of an ancient African city. Today,
the city of Ife is still a spiritual heartland for the 29 million
Yoruba people living in Nigeria and countless descendants in the
Americas and elsewhere in the world. --Dynasty and Divinity
accompanies an exhibition co-organized by the Museum for African
Art, New York City, and the Fundacion Marcelino Botin, Santander,
Spain, in collaboration with the National Commission for Museums
and Monuments, Nigeria. The exhibition will appear at the British
Museum, London, as Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures of West Africa.
--Henry John Drewal is Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and
Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and
adjunct curator of African art at the University's Chazen Museum of
Art. --Enid Schildkrout is chief curator and director of
exhibitions and publications at the Museum for African Art and
curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History.
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