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."