7 of Nigeria's most prized ancient antiquities

September 27th 2022, 2:25:19 pm

Africa is a continent rich with art; specifically in Nigeria, our art is connected to our History.


Here are seven of Nigeria's most prized antiquities;

The Ife Bronze Sculptures are one of the most popular and priceless artworks in Nigeria and Africa. There were about eighteen copper alloy sculptures unearthed at Ile-Ife in 1938.

These beautiful, well-detailed bronze and copper artworks all represent royalty, and the "Ife Bronze head," as it is popularly called, is believed to represent a king.

It was probably made between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. These antiques show sophisticated craftsmanship and how advanced artists, even at that time, were.

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These features of the Ife heads are unique, and because of the similarities in the style of these works, many experts have suggested that they were all probably made by an individual artist or in the same workshop.

The Igbo-Ukwu bronzes are one of the most mysterious artworks in Nigerian History. These bronze works, found in Igbo-Ukwu, Anambra state Nigeria, not too far from the city of Onitsha, were part of a burial site and a shrine unearthed.

Crowns, breastplates, ceremonial containers, pendants, jewelry, ceramics, copper, iron, and countless glass beads are among the things discovered. These artworks are the earliest examples of cast bronze artifacts dating to the 9th century.

The Igbo-Ukwu bronze castings are produced using the lost wax method over several steps. This demonstrates the extent of the great bronze casting abilities of the Igbo forefathers.

Igbo Ukwu art bronze is considered the earliest type of art in the sub-Saharan region, and many believe it is the most sophisticated and precious art in Nigeria.

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Nok art refers to the artworks made by the people of the Nok culture, found in Nok villages throughout Nigeria. These art pieces are images of humans, animals, and other figures made out of terracotta pottery.

The terracotta's represented the earliest sculptural art in West Africa and were made between 900 B.C.E. and 0 C.E. In these Nok villages were also found Africa's first evidence of iron smelting in the south Sahara desert.

The famous terracotta figurines were made of local clays. Although a number of these sculptures have remained intact, from observations, it is quite clear that they were nearly life-sized.

Most artworks are now in fragments representing human heads and other body parts with ornaments like beads, anklets, and bracelets.

Only a little knowledge about the initial function of the pieces is known; many have speculated that they portray ancestors, are grave markers, or charms to prevent crop failure, infertility, and illness.

One of the most significant characteristics of the historic Kingdom of Benin is the bronze casting tradition. This is said to have been established in the 14th century by Oba Oguola.

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The ancient kingdom produced some of the best bronze heads thanks to the art of bronze casting, several of which are said to have been taken by the British colonial forces during the Benin expedition of 1897.

The artworks' superior lost-wax casting skills, which are among the best ever, are their most outstanding feature. Igue-Igha is still revered by these craftsmen's offspring as the person who introduced casting to the Kingdom of Benin.

Although the earliest-known sculpture from Igboland is from the village of Igbo Ukwu, many other Igbo cultures are very well known for their masks. These masks are worn during festivals by male and female performers to display the culture's beauty.

They were also worn to honour important patron deities. During performances, they were complemented by vibrantly colored suits and accompanied by traditional music.

These masks are scattered around many Museums and are prized possessions for many individuals.

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The Ikom Monoliths are a collection of stone carvings that may be seen in the vicinity of Ikom in the Nigerian state of Cross River, where Ekoi live in dispersed communities. The stone monoliths go by many names, including Akwanshi, Atal, and Capital.

They are carved monoliths found in groups, numbering more than 350 stones located in over 35 sites.

These monoliths have baffled experts since they were first discovered in 1903. Their origin, date of execution, and purpose remain a mystery. The Ekoi people hold the view that the spirits of the deceased reside within the stones.

Many of these monoliths have been destroyed because they were not adequately conserved, but others have been conserved in museums like the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

In the hills of the Zuru Federation in the North-Western State of Nigeria, there is a small ethnic group known as the Dakakari. The Dakakari people are known to bury their dead in an underground tomb.

To honour the dead, they placed pottery and clay sculptures on the graveside, which symbolize the titles and positions of the deceased when he was alive.

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The Dakakari have become famous because these terracotta grave sculptures are placed at the burial sites of notable dignitaries.

Interestingly, most of these art pieces were made by women, and those for high-ranking personalities were made exclusively by certain families.

Many of these sculptures now hang in museums all over Nigeria and the world.

Oluwatumininu Dunmade
Oluwatumininu Dunmade is a witty writer who loves to engage her readers.


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