In the myths of Yoruba, the city of Ile-Ife situated at southwest of Nigeria is “the navel of the world,” the place where creation took place and the tradition of kingship began. It was there that the gods Oduduwa and Obatala descended from the heaven to create earth and its inhabitants. Oduduwa himself became the first ruler, oni, of Ile-Ife. To this day Yoruba kings trace ancestry to Oduduwa. Of all the centers of African art, there is none so remarkable for extraordinary accomplishments in many fields of art as the ancient town of Ife, the ritual center of the great Yoruba tribe of western Nigeria.
The art tradition was named after Ife. Its art includes terra-cotta and bronze heads and busts, stone sculpture, stools and religious pieces carved in quartz, monumental granite monoliths, statues of humans and animals. Both the terra-cotta and bronze pieces belong to a series that has been interpreted by some specialists as idealized portraits. This bronze head is one of such idealized portraits