“Lajuwa” Heads cast in Bronze
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The Lajuwa of legend was a servant who usurped the throne upon his master’s death by donning the ruler’s clothing. Once found out, Lajuwa was beheaded, which makes this freestanding, life-sized head seem ironic in conception, as if the sculptor decided to behead the treacherous servant once more. Today, palace servants consider Lajuwa a kind of patron saint, despite (or maybe because of) his treacherous ways. Holes in the sculpted head hint at where a crest or feather may have been inserted. A visible pride washes over the face of Lajuwa, with just a hint of defiance about the lips. The paradoxes and inconsistencies of characters such as Lajuwa found throughout Ife history place them on a par with the fickleness of the Greek gods themselves, and make them just as human and compelling today as they were in ancient times.
In 1911 a German ethnographer, Leo Frobenius visited Ile-Ife and discovered some sculptures that the local people dug up to use in religious rituals and then returned to the earth. The statues in bronze and terra cotta were so naturalistic that he did not believe that they were made by Africans. He insisted that he had discovered the remains of the lost Greek city of Atlantis. Study by other archeologists revealed that this art was the work of the Yoruba of Ile-Ife between 1000 to 1399. Since then, the Art of the Yoruba people of Ile Ife and Benin continues to attract art lovers all over the world.