The term Yoruba describes both a language and a tribe living between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, in an area covered by forests and savannah. Their history can be traced from the beginning of our millennium, with the civilization of Ife. Following the collapse of the kingdom of Ife kingdom of a number such as Oyo and Ijebu emerged, they in turn disintegrated during the 18th and 19th, but were revived by the colonial powers, to the end of the 19th. Today they are still the basis of the Yoruba political structure. The slave trade touched heavily Yoruba people of Nigeria and he contributed to their diaspora and the release of their rites and beliefs.
The Yoruba are prolific craftsmen, most Yoruba art objects dating from between the late 19 th and the middle of this century, and can sometimes be attributed to known artists by their names, which is an exception in African art.
During the XVI, the Ijebu kingdom, ruled areas near the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. copper imported by sailors, was traded by the Portuguese Ijebu and many bronze objects were created by their artists. These objects reflect the influence of their neighbors, the Kingdom of Benin. Nevertheless, their bells and bracelets scepters are usually decorated with figures, half human, half animal with eyes bulging and curved scars on his forehead.
The empire of Oyo between the XVII and XIX was located in the northern territories or peoples live who speak Yoruba, it was then ruled by an emperor named Alafin, who served as supreme judge. His power was offset by a board of 7 counts, each of them netra head of a non-royal family, from the 17th century, the Oyo extended their territory, with their cavalry, which was later immortalized by sculptors Epa said on masks. the two most important cults created by the Oyo were centered on secret societies still active today, and generate a multituide masks headdresses statues.
The ceremonies of the hidden secret societies involve dancers, representing heavenly creatures, called Ara Orun able to bring fertility and punish the guilty. The headdresses are worn during ceremonies associated with the annual masquerade but can also appear during the festivities accompanying the funeral of a dignitary or during initiation ceremonies. The headdresses vary considerably so that only the dancer's costume, not the crest he bears can be distinguished from other dancers.
Sango The term is originally linked to the Yoruba fourth king, who was deified and that one association, lightning symbolized by a double shaft, placed on the heads of sculptures created for his worship. During the annual ceremonies of worship Sango, the priestesses, sing and dance holding a dare Sango, scepter dance. This cult has also generated a number of kneeling statue as a sign of devotion, taking a cut, or tightening up a musical instrument or a dare Sango. The altars are often framed Sango caryatids anthropomorphic statues.
Today Nigeria is structured by many cults, the most important are:
1. Gelede, practiced mostly in the western Yoruba kingdoms, and pays tribute to the power of older women, during the festivities of this cult participants wear helmets carved shaped head crowned with a representation of daily activity or an elaborate hairstyle .
2. Epa, also known under the name elefon is located in the northern kingdoms east Epa masks, which vary widely depending on the city where they are crééssont usually worn during funerals and rites of passage. Stylistically they are composed of several elements: a helmet mask representing a human head under a statue developed. When they are not worn these masks are placed in sanctuaries where they receive libations and prayers.
3. Ogboni, the company is present in all areas occupied by the Yoruba, however, it is probably of Ijebu. At its head man and woman the wisest of the community have the power to judge. Ogboni brass statues, called NWS are generally made in pairs and attached to each other by a chain. They are worn on the shoulders of members of society Ogbonien sign of recognition or as an amulet.
4. Esu, the cult of Esu, is centered around a divine messenger, an intermediary between humans and spirits, supposed to bring blessings and punishments, he is revered in sanctuaries or sticks carved with their statues are placed on an altar, or danced during the annual ceremonies. The statue of him is characterized by a large hair thrown back, appearing as an adze.
Yoruba carvers have been commissioned to decorate the doors of palaces and shrines as well as posts are porches and roofs. Among the most famous Yoruba artists, Olow Ise has a recognizable style, thanks to complex traits and angular sculptures, among other things he carved poles for the palace of the southern city of Ekiti.