The Ooni of Ife claims direct descent from Oduduwa and is counted first among the Yoruba Kings. He is traditionally considered the 401st Spirit (Orisha) and the only one that speaks. The Royal dynasty of Ife traces its origin back to the founding of the city more than two thousand years ago. The 51st Ooni, of Ife , His Imperial Majesty , Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II ascended to the throne in December 2015.
Following the formation of the Yoruba Orisha Congress in 1986, the Ooni acquired an international status the likes of which the holders of his title had not seen since the city’s colonization by the British. Nationally, he had always been prominent amongst the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s company of Royal Obas, being regarded as the Chief Priest and custodian of the holy city of all the Yorubas.
In former times, the Palace of the Ooni of Ife was a structure built of authentic enameled brick, decorated with artistic porcelain tiles and a multitude of other ornaments .Ife is well known as the city of 201 or 401 deities. It is said that every day of the year the traditional worshippers celebrate a festival of one of these deities. Often the festival extends over more than one day and they involve both priestly activities in the Palace and theatrical dramatisations in the rest of the Kingdom.
Historically the king only appeared in the public during the annual Olojo festival; other important festivals include the Itapa festival for Obatala and Obameri, the Edi festival for Moremi Ajasoro, and the Igare masquerades. The Art History Bronze Head from Ife, is a king dated around 1300 C.E., in the British Museum. Kings and Gods were often depicted with large heads because the artists believed that the Ase was held in the head. The Ase being the inner power and energy of a person.
Both historic figures of Ife and the offices associated with them are represented. One of the best documented among this is the early king Obalufon II, who was said to have invented bronze casting and is honored in the form of a naturalistic copper life sized mask.
The city was a settlement of substantial size between the 12th and 14th centuries, with house featuring potsherd pavements . Ile Ife is known worldwide for its ancient and naturalistic bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, which reached their peak of artistic expressions between 1200 and 1400 A.D.
In the period around 1300C.E. the artistes at Ife developed a refined and naturalistic sculptural tradition in terracotta , stone and copper alloy – copper, brass, and bronze. Many of these appear to have been created under the patronage of king Obalufon II, the man today is identified as the Yoruba patron deity of brass casting, weaving and regalia.
After this period, production declined as political and economic power shifted to the nearby Kingdom of Benin which, like the Yoruba Kingdom of Oyo, developed into a major Empire. Bronze and terracotta art created by this civilization are significant examples of naturalism in pre-colonial African Art and are distinguished by their variations in regalia, facial marking patterns and body proportions. Ancient Ife also was famous for its glass beads which have been found at sites as far away as Mali, Mauritania and Ghana.