Kingdom of Ife
Sculptures from West Africa

4 March – 4 July 2010

Exhibition closed


Co-organised by

Fundación Marcelino BotínMuseum for African art

In collaboration with the National Commission
for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria.

Sponsored by

Santander Logo

Additional support provided by

The A.G. Leventis Foundation


This major exhibition presents exquisite examples of brass, copper, stone and terracotta sculpture 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).

‘Exceptional’ ★★★★★ Guardian
‘Unmissable’ Daily Telegraph
‘Extraordinary’ ★★★★ The Times

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 Ife 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.


Related gallery

The Sainsbury African Galleries (Room 25)

Find out more about African culture and heritage in the Museum’s African Galleries, Lower floor, Room 25. African objects can also be found in many other galleries throughout the Museum. See floor plans