A common stock of philosophical and metaphysical speculation and belief. An internal coherence , secret wisdom and apprehension of realities equal to what the white man conceives themselves to have attained…
If we look at the courtly arts of Ife and Benin within the African tradition; they are “eccentric” only to the point that the societies which produced them had developed highly centralized forms of divine kinship and a corresponding requirement from their artists. If completely African, then how and through what diversity of experience did these arts emerge? The Yoruba people who built the old empire of Oyo, whose “holy city” was Ife, are now believed to have entered their historic homeland at about the same time that the Normans began casting envious eyes on Anglo-Saxon England.
Were they all part of the lost tribes of Israel scattering in clusters over the world? After all, they were not the only ancestors of Yoruba civilization , any more than William of Normandy’s four thousand knights were the only ancestors of British civilization. They were a relatively small group of travelers, but hard-tried and well-armed, of unclear origins who conquered and settled and then were absorbed among those peoples.
These what are termed “non-Yoruba ancestors” were the highly artistic and ingenious people of the Nok culture, so-called after the name of a village where some of their characteristic terra-cotta figures were first recovered. It has been surmised that Ife is the “fabled spot” where God created man and from whence they dispersed all over the earth. However that may be, the certain fact is that the Yoruba took over a tradition which they found among the populations with whom they settled; and this, evidently, was a Nok tradition.
But then the Yoruba also have another tradition, parallel but contradictory. They believe that they came from the East, from the lands of the Nile and beyond for which there is some partial confirmation in a number of their cultural traits; possibly from Meroe capital of the Kushite state that flourished on the middle Nile between the sixth century B.C. and about A.D. 320 when its last ruler was overthrown by the armies of Abyssinian Axum.