World Ceramic: What does it look like?

This nearly life-sized head probably represents a member of the royal court of Ife. She wears her hair in several ridges, a style that proclaims her high status. The delicate vertical lines that cover her face represent a pattern of SCARIFICATION. Like tattooing, cutting patterns into the skin is a way of marking a person's identity or status. The patterns are also considered beautiful and enjoyable to touch. Scarification was widely practiced in West Africa until recently, and it is still a part of young girl's initiation into adulthood among some groups.

Great care has been taken in shaping this face to create the convincing illusion of human flesh and its underlying muscles and bone structure.

Her almost perfect or IDEALIZED beauty has led scholars to speculate that this and other shrine heads, although depicting real people, were intended more as COMMEMORATIVE representations than as true portraits. At Ife, artists may have used idealization to represent the inner, invisible spirit of a person, and realism to depict the outer, visible body. The Yoruba believed in two distinct, yet inseparable, worlds: the tangible world of the living and the invisible spiritual world inhabited by the supreme creator, ancestors, and other spirits.

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Key ideas.
Where does it come from?
What does it look like?
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