African Royalty Series: The Story of the Ooni

A long, long time ago, and according to Yoruba mythology, God (the supreme God) ordered one of his deities to create the earth. However, this deity got drunk with palm wine, and another deity took advantage of his drunkenness, took the creation items from him, and descended the earth using a chain. The earth was all water, and he threw a handful of soil upon the waters, forming solid ground. He put a cockerel on the ground, which scattered the earth all over the waters. This was how the earth was formed. This act resulted in severe rivalry between these two deities. While the second deity was credited with the creation of the earth, the first deity expanded the earth and formed a city called Ilé-Ifẹ̀, which is translated to mean the home of expansion.

Ilé-Ifẹ̀ is famous worldwide for its ancient and naturalistic bronze, terracotta sculptures and stone, which date back to between 1200 and 1400 CE. The king of Ife, known as the Ọọ̀ni of Ifẹ̀, is a descendant of Oduduwa. The royal dynasty of Ife traces its origin back to the city’s founding in more than 10,000 BC. 

For the Ooni of Ife, there are different crowns available to him, but the most important and sacred is the Are crown, which a new Ooni must wear before being installed. The sacred Are crown is the only physical symbol of authority the Ooni inherited from his ancestors. It is believed to have been made from several items, such as cutlass, hoe and 149 other undisclosed objects.

Oral tradition reveals that the Are crown is weighty, and the Ooni is believed to be supernaturally empowered to wear it during the Olojo festival because it is too heavy for him to wear ordinarily. It is assumed that there is a strong relationship between the sacred Are crown and the god of iron due to the crown’s iron component and because the crown is brought before the god of iron during the annual festival celebration in Ile Ife. The crown is believed to attract people to itself when the Ooni wears it. During the Olojo festival, people often troop out to behold the crown because the presence of the sacred crown symbolises peace, unity, blessing and prosperity. However, the reigning Ooni is forbidden to look inside the crown because any attempt to do so would result in his death. It is believed that when the Ooni puts on the mysterious crown, he is instantly transfigured into his true nature – a deity who becomes too dreadful to behold.

The first and only female Ooni, Ooni Lúwo Gbàgìdá, was the 21st Ooni of Ife. She was a descendant of Ooni Otaataa and was married to one of the high chiefs. She was the only female ruler of Ile-ife. Her son Adekola Telu was the founder of the Iwo Kingdom. Ooni Luwo was a beautiful woman who derived great joy from her beauty and the aesthetics of her surroundings. She commissioned the creation of unique courtyards decorated with pottery shards to adorn her environment. During her reign, there was no difference between slave and child; everyone was treated equally. The elders of the land saw her as being strict and high-handed, and when her reign had ended, the council of Kings met and decided never to make a woman the Ooni of Ife ever again.

The present ruler Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II), ascended his throne in 2015. In 1986, the office of the Ooni acquired an international status. The current Ooni, born October 17, 1974, is a Nigerian accountant and the 51st Ooni of Ife. He succeeded the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the 50th Ooni of Ife, who died on July 28, 2015. Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi was selected from the Giesi ruling house of Ile-Ife, among princes who were likely successors to the throne, on October 26, 2015. He received his oath of office on December 7, 2015. 

Ilé-Ifẹ̀’s rich culture and heritage will only be complete with tributes and monuments crafted in honor of the paramount ruler. This exquisite, handcrafted stoned Ooni Crown head gown, available in teal green, wine, and navy blue, is one of such tributes. These African-themed gifts are available at the African Gift Shop ( – the home of handcrafted and unique gift items. 

African Gift Shop is a black-owned business that sells African-themed gifts, unique African gifts, and corporate gifts. For your African-inspired gifts, visit us at and order your unique, bespoke and authentic gifts.

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