Ife (ēˈfā) [key], city (1991 est. pop. 262,000), SW Nigeria. Located in a farm region, the city is an important center for marketing and shipping cacao. According to tradition, Ife is the oldest Yoruba town (founded c.1300). All Yoruba chiefs trace their descent from the first mythological ruler of Ife, Oduduwa, and they regard the reigning oni (king) of Ife as their ritual superior. Ife was the most powerful Yoruba kingdom until the late 17th cent., when Oyo surpassed it. Terra-cotta and naturalistic bronze sculptures made in the area as early as the 12th cent. are considered among the finest works of West African art; some are displayed in the Ife Museum. The Univ. of Ife is in the city, which is sometimes called Ile-Ife [old Ife].
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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