By Sodiq Lawal
The Yoruba worldwide trace their roots to Ile-Ife – a town situated in Osun State, South West Nigeria. Ile-Ife is regarded as the holy city of the Yoruba people. Ile-Ife appears in myths as the birthplace of creation and the location where the first humans took form.
According to Yoruba mythology, the world was originally a marshy, watery wasteland. In the sky above lived many gods, including the supreme god Olorun, the Owner of the Sky.
Ile-Ife is the home of the Ooni of Ife, the spiritual head of the Yorubas and where Oduduwa – the progenitor of the Yoruba race – is believed to have settled down.
The Palace of the Ooni is a spectacle in itself, and a tour of the place is recommended. During its heyday of the 12th – 15th centuries AD, Ile-Ife experienced fluorescence in bronze and iron arts.
The cultural heritage of Ile-Ife where it all began reminds one of the Yoruba mystical version of how in the beginning, God created the Heavens and Earth. We were told in the book of Genesis and the Quran on how the earth was void and covered with darkness and waters.
Late Afolabi Adio Moses, the author of Flashes of Ideas and Reflections, said in his Ife mythology writing “Olodumare…”, envisaged how God sent Oduduwa to create the world and the origin of the name Ile-Ife, which he argued on the position of Ile-Ife among others Yoruba race.
“I have created the earth. I have also created waters under the heaven. When you go down there, that is to the earth, on the waters, sprinkle the sand in this shell, and rest this white cock on the mould thus formed. And the sand was poured and the white cock scattered and spread the sand to all places round the world, and the earth grew far and wide
“The place where the cock began the great work of spreading the sand and thus making the earth, was then called “IFE, that is, the expansive, from “where it all began”. he said.
This mythology which is strongly believed among the sons and daughters of Ife and many Yorubas was confirmed by Chief M.A. Fabunmi in his book titled: Ife the genesis of Yoruba race .
However, Professor Biobaku also in his book: Sources of Yoruba history also confirmed the story of the mystical descent of Oduduwa from heaven, that “Oduduwa was the son of Olodumare, the supreme God of the Yoruba,who who sent him down from heaven on a chain to create earth where there was previously waters and the spot where Oduduwa first landed was Ile-Ife.
You will be marvelled at some of the iconic architectures and inspiring aged structures within the ancient city of Ile-Ife.
These buildings have sat in exactly the same spot for at least a couple of generations, providing a space for prayers, education and community.
Undoubtedly, some of these buildings desperately need restorative work but overall, most of them appear extremely well looked after even after all these years.
Beautiful naturalistic terracotta and copper alloy sculptures made during the early periods have been found at Ife; later sculptures are of the lost-wax brass technique known as Benin bronzes.
It was also during classic period Ile Ife that construction of decorative pavements, open-air courtyards paved with pottery sherds, began. This custom unique to the Yoruba is said to have been first commissioned by Ile-Ife’s only female king.
The potsherds were set on edge, sometimes in decorative patterns, such as herringbone with embedded ritual pots. Buildings were constructed primarily of sun-dried adobe brick and so only a few remnants have survived.
During the medieval period, two earthen rampart walls were erected around the City centre, making Ile-Ife what archaeologists call a fortified settlement.
The royal centre of Ile-Ife had a circumference of about 3.8 kilometers, and its innermost wall encircles an area of some 7.8 km.
A second medieval period wall encircles an area of some 14 km; both medieval walls are 4.5 meters tall and 2 meters thick.
All this parallel mythology on Oduduwa pointed to Ile-Ife as the spot where God created man, white and black and from where all the races of the world sprang up.
Visitors and tourists to Ile-Ife should bear in mind that the town is still developing, therefore it is possible to sight untarred and unmarked roads and other features that are commonly spotable in developing world.
Another downside of the town is unavailability of top brand hotels; though there are few considerably good hotels where visitors can stay.