The Ife temples are used for a place of worship and religion for the Yoruba religion located in Ile Ife in northern Nigeria. First dated back to 500 B.C. the story of its founding is when the first settlers came to this piece of land by the water, one of them was cutting down a tree and heard a voice from the river telling him to move out of the way, this led to the settlers moving their settlement and going onto higher grounds, dedicating the forest to Osun, the goddess who’s voice came from the river. These higher grounds became the city of Osobo in southwest Nigeria. Ile Ife is translated to the place of dispersion and is now home to about 501,000 people as of 2011.
Yoruba worships over 400 different orishas, they are believed to mediate between the human and spiritual realm. Ile Ife is most famous for its art, it is known for making bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures. These temples were carved by different artists and in the 1950’s artists of the New Sacred Art Movement embellished the grove. They stylized the houses for the gods, erected statues, and sculpted temple doors. One artist, Susanne Wenger was asked to restore the shrines that were eroded and ruined from a termite infestation over the years.
This place of worship has brought offerings like kola nuts; that are used as many different offerings and as a sacred object in African culture; for initiation ceremonies for the Yoruba religion. The settlement of Osun- Osogbo was declared one of two world heritage sites in 2005, the other site is in the Middle East and can currently not be visited as it is under the threat of Boko Haram, an extremist group. These sites are usually visited by healers who use the medicinal plants that grow there, worshippers for many different reasons and tourists who want to see the area. Many outsiders come to try and find their roots or their ancestors. Every year in August thousands of people come to the city of Osogbo, Nigeria for the Osun festival – celebration of Osun, the goddess of fertility. Every year the pact between the people and the spiritual that was established so long ago is renewed, it is said in return for vows to honor Osun’s Sacred Grove she will offer grace to the community.
Studying these temples and the Yoruba religion is a great way for people not only to get in touch with their own religion and ancestry but also to spread the knowledge of all these different types of religion and ways to worship and who to worship. The temples and other pieces of art are great ways to study this cultures, values, beliefs and way of life that differ from not just our westernized way of life but also from other African cultures ways of life.