News / Africa

Nigerian Ife Art on Display in Houston

A sculpture from the exhibit "Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria", on display in Houston, Texas
A sculpture from the exhibit "Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria", on display in Houston, Texas

Multimedia

Greg Flakus

A collection of more than 100 items of African art is now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the first stop in a U.S. tour of rare art works from Nigeria's Ife region.

The exhibition is called Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria and features many objects that  museum visitors may find surprising.  Curator Frances Marzio said, "Ife early on protected its patrimony and these objects have, for the most part, never even been outside of Nigeria."

One of the biggest surprises, Marzio says, is the realistic portrayals of royalty and other subjects in terra cotta, stone and metal. "Most of what we think of as African art today are the types of abstract art and wooden art that really influenced 20th century artists like Picasso. So, to see these objects that are made in a very classical way, more like Greece and Rome, I think is a revelation and I think it changes your idea of what African art was," said Marzio.

One example is this statue of a beaded woman called Idena. "This stone sculpture dates from the ninth century and it represents Idena, the gatekeeper, who presided over and protected the sacred grove at Ore. "The Idena statue is seen in a gatekeeper position and wearing a large beaded necklace and beaded bracelets. The wealth of Ife was due to a bead making tradition. They exported their glass beads to the north of Africa and made this area very prosperous," she said.

Marzio says her favorite works in the exhibition are the metal sculptures of human heads. "From the ninth to the 14th century, this area created a number of copper-alloy heads that are unlike anything else we have seen in African art. They have wonderful naturalism. They look as if they could speak or communicate  with you. Yet they have the realism of Roman portraits," she said.

Most of these works date from a period a century before the art of metal sculpture returned to Europe during the Renaissance. Marzio says they show a level of skill similar to that attained by the ancient Greeks and Romans. "We know that there was a long metal-working tradition in Africa from very ancient times, but it is unknown what the origin of these particular heads was," she said.

The exhibit of art from Ife will remain here in Houston through January 9 of next year.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid