Queen Oni Oluwo; the African Yoruba Queen who paved the southern Nigeria city of Ife in 1000AD


It is uncommon to hear most people ignorantly claiming blacks or Africans lacked wisdom in science and technology until the Arabs and Europeans came into contact with them.

What even makes this assertion so painfully sad and pathetic is when it comes out of the mouth of a fellow African or a black person. This is what brings me to the issue of one ancient Yoruba Queen called, Oni Oluwo of Ife (c.1000 AD). History remembers her as one development-oriented queen who paved the southern Nigeria city of Ife.

Sculpture of Ife King (Oba) and Queen (Oni). Courtesy Galery Peter Herrmann.

Professor Ekpo Eyo, a former head of the Nigerian museums system, narrates a curious oral tradition concerning Oni Oluwo, a distinguished Yoruba ruler. Apparently she was walking around the capital city of Ife when her regalia got splashed with mud.

Oluwo was so upset by this that she ordered the construction of pavements for all the public and religious places in the city. Archaeology confirms that: “Pavements … are widespread in Africa. Potsherd pavements are the most common types of pavements known in West Africa … The most consistent reports about excavated pavements in West Africa have so far come from Ife, specifically the sites at Oduduwa College, Lafogido, Ita Yemoo, Obalara’s Land and Woye Asiri Land.”

The pavements embellished the courtyards and often had altars built at the ends against walls. Peter Garlake adds that: “Many [of the pavements] had regular and geometric patterns, often emphasized by the incorporation of white quartz pebbles in their surface. Such pavements have been found on prehistoric sites from Tchad [sic] in the northeast to Togo in the west.”

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