Ancient African art on show in UK

2010-03-05 09:01 BJT


Stunning sculptures from West Africa's legendary 11th-14th century Kingdom of Ife, are about to go on display in England. Curators say the works are the pinnacle of African art and yet they were only discovered less than 100 years ago.

The exhibition is on a tour of Spain, London and New York - the very first time the wider world has seen such sculptures.

The exhibition is on a tour of Spain, London and New York - the very first time the wider world has seen such sculptures. 
The exhibition is on a tour of Spain, London and New York - the very first time
the wider world has seen such sculptures. 

An exhibition of what critics and curators call some of the highest achievements of African art is about to go on show in London.

"Kingdom of Life", at the British Museum, is a spectacular display of what are some of the most refined and beautiful sculptures ever found in Africa.

The works have a fascinating history, they were, for many centuries, hidden from much of the world.

Hassan Arero, curator of British Museum, said, "Ife was unknown to many people and still remains unknown in many ways. We think Ife started at about 800 AD. It was based within a forest next to the River Niger and mushroomed and became well known about 11th century, so most of these objects are maybe dated about 11th century to 14th century. And, we know that it really mushroomed between 11th century and 14th century, but we don't know what happened to it. It went silent after that."

The Kingdom of Ife was a community based in what is now known as Nigeria and Benin, amongst the Yoruba people. It was populated by many different ethnicities as a religious, spiritual and royal hierarchy.

Ife once flourished as a powerful, cosmopolitan and wealthy city state. It developed a refined and highly naturalistic sculptural tradition in granite, stone, copper, brass and terracotta to create a style unlike any other in Africa at that time.

To the rest of the world, Ife art wasn't discovered until many centuries later, when a German explorer went in search of artifacts from this legendary kingdom in 1910. In 1938, more Ife artworks were discovered by chance during building work.

The current collection has just been shown in Spain and will move on to New York after its exhibition in London.

Editor: Liu Fang | Source: