List of Yoruba people
Sierra Leone Creoles
Taboms, Agudas & Amaros Afro-Cubans / Lucumis
Festivals & Events
Aké Arts & Book Festival
World Sango Festival
Yoruba Arts Festival
Yemoja Festival (Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, USA, Venezuela, Argentina
Yoruba people (Yoruba: Ìran Yorùbá, lit. 'Yoruba lineage'; also
known as Àwon omo Yorùbá, lit. 'Children of Yoruba', or simply as
the Yoruba) are an ethnic group of southwestern and north-central
Nigeria, as well as southern and central Benin. Together, these
regions are known as Yorubaland. The Yoruba constitute over 40 million
people in total. The majority of this population is from Nigeria, and
the Yoruba make up 21% of the country's population, according to the
CIA World Factbook, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in
Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language, which is
tonal, and is the
Niger-Congo language with the largest number of
The Yoruba share borders with the Bariba to the northwest in Benin,
the Nupe to the north and the
Ebira to the northeast in central
Nigeria. To the east are the Edo,
Ẹsan and the
Afemai groups in
mid-western Nigeria. Adjacent to the
Ebira and Edo groups are the
Igala people found in the northeast, on the left bank of the
Niger River. To the southwest are the Gbe speaking Mahi, Egun, Fon and
Ewe who border Yoruba communities in
Benin and Togo. To the southeast
Itsekiri who live in the north-west end of the
Niger delta. They
are ancestrally related to the Yoruba but chose to maintain a distinct
cultural identity. Significant Yoruba populations in other West
African countries can be found in Ghana, Ivory Coast,
Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; one of them
includes relatively recent migrants, the majority of which moved to
United Kingdom and the
United States after major economic and
political changes in the 1960s to 1980s; the other is a much older
population dating back to the Atlantic slave trade. This older group
has communities in such countries as Cuba, Dominican Republic,
Venezuela, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Brazil, Grenada,
Tobago, among others.
3.1 Oyo and Ile-Ife
4 Pre-colonial government of Yoruba society
4.4 Groups, organizations and leagues in Yorubaland
5 Society and culture
Religion and mythology
5.1.1 Traditional Yoruba religion
Islam and Christianity
5.2 Traditional art and architecture
5.5 Twins in Yoruba society
6 Dressing and clothing
West Africa (Other)
7.5 The Yoruba diaspora
9 Notable people of Yoruba origin
10 See also
13 External links
As an ethnic description, the word "Yoruba" was first recorded in
reference to the
Oyo Empire in a treatise written by the 16th century
Songhai scholar Ahmed Baba. It was popularized by Hausa usage and
ethnography written in
Arabic and Ajami during the 19th century, in
origin referring to the Oyo exclusively. The extension of the term to
all speakers of dialects related to the language of the Oyo (in modern
terminology North-West Yoruba) dates to the second half of the 19th
century. It is due to the influence of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the
first Anglican bishop in Nigeria. Crowther was himself a Yoruba and
compiled the first Yoruba dictionary as well as introducing a standard
for Yoruba orthography. The alternative name Akú, apparently
an exonym derived from the first words of Yoruba greetings (such as
Ẹ kú àárọ? "good morning", Ẹ kú alẹ? "good evening") has
survived in certain parts of their diaspora as a self-descriptive,
especially in Sierra Leone
Main article: Yoruba language
Yoruba culture was originally an oral tradition, and the majority
Yoruba people are native speakers of the Yoruba language. The
number of speakers is roughly estimated at about 30 million in
2010. Yoruba is classified within the Edekiri languages, which
together with the isolate Igala, form the Yoruboid group of languages
Volta-Niger branch of the
Niger-Congo family. Igala and
Yoruba have important historical and cultural relationships. The
languages of the two ethnic groups bear such a close resemblance that
researchers such as Forde (1951) and Westermann and Bryan (1952)
regarded Igala as a dialect of Yoruba.
Yoruboid languages are assumed to have developed out of an
Volta-Niger group by the 1st millennium BCE. There
are three major dialect areas: Northwest, Central, and Southeast.
As the North-West Yoruba dialects show more linguistic innovation,
combined with the fact that Southeast and Central Yoruba areas
generally have older settlements, suggests a later date of immigration
for Northwest Yoruba. The area where North-West Yoruba (NWY) is
spoken corresponds to the historical Oyo Empire. South-East Yoruba
(SEY) was probably associated with the expansion of the
after c. 1450. Central Yoruba forms a transitional area in that
the lexicon has much in common with NWY, whereas it shares many
ethnographical features with SEY.
Literary Yoruba, the standard variety taught in schools and spoken by
newsreaders on the radio, has its origin in the Yoruba grammar
compiled in the 1850s by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who himself was
a creole from Sierra Leone. Though for a large part based on the Oyo
Ibadan dialects, it incorporates several features from other
Main article: History of the Yoruba people
Further information: Ife
Further information: Yoruba religion
Some Yoruba cities of the Middle Ages
As of the 7th century
BCE the African peoples who lived in Yorubaland
were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common
ethnicity and language group. By the 8th century, a powerful Yoruba
kingdom already existed in Ile-Ife, one of the earliest in Africa.
The historical Yoruba develop in situ, out of earlier Mesolithic
Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BCE. Oral history
recorded under the
Oyo Empire derives the Yoruba as an ethnic group
from the population of the older kingdom of Ile-Ife. The Yoruba were
the dominant cultural force in southern
Nigeria as far back as the
The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For
centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration
most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centres organized
around powerful city-states (Ìlú) centred around the residence of
the Oba. In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses,
with high walls and gates. Yoruba cities have always been among the
most populous in Africa. Archaeological findings indicate that
Òyó-Ilé or Katunga, capital of the Yoruba empire of Oyo (fl.
between the 11th and 19th centuries CE), had a population of over
100,000 people (the largest single population of any African
settlement at that time in history). For a long time also, Ibadan, one
of the major Yoruba cities, was the largest city in the whole of Sub
Saharan Africa. Today,
Lagos (Yoruba: Èkó), another major Yoruba
city, with a population of over twenty million, remains the largest on
the African continent.
Archaeologically, the settlement of Ile-
Ife showed features of
urbanism in the 12th–14th century era. In the period around 1300 CE
the artists at Ile-
Ife developed a refined and naturalistic sculptural
tradition in terracotta, stone and copper alloy - copper, brass, and
bronze many of which appear to have been created under the patronage
of King Obalufon II, the man who today is identified as the Yoruba
patron deity of brass casting, weaving and regalia. The dynasty of
kings at Ile-Ife, which is regarded by the Yoruba as the place of
origin of human civilization, remains intact to this day. The urban
phase of Ile-
Ife before the rise of Oyo, c. 1100–1600, a significant
peak of political centralization in the 12th century) is
commonly described as a "golden age" of Ile-Ife. The oba or ruler of
Ife is referred to as the Ooni of Ife.
Oyo and Ile-Ife
Brass head from Ife, 12th century
Ife continues to be seen as the "Spiritual Homeland" of the Yoruba.
The city was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba
military and political power in the 17th century.
Oyo Empire under its oba, known as the Alaafin of Oyo, was active
African slave trade
African slave trade during the 18th century. The Yoruba often
demanded slaves as a form of tribute of subject populations, who in
turn sometimes made war on other peoples to capture the required
slaves. Part of the slaves sold by the
Oyo Empire entered the Atlantic
Most of the city states were controlled by Obas (or royal sovereigns
with various individual titles) and councils made up of Oloyes,
recognised leaders of royal, noble and, often, even common descent,
who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds
and cults. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the
kingships and the chiefs' councils. Some, such as Oyo, had powerful,
autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in others such as
Ijebu city-states, the senatorial councils held more influence and
the power of the ruler or Ọba, referred to as the Awujale of
Ijebuland, was more limited.
Yoruba settlements are often described as primarily one or more of the
main social groupings called "generations":
The "first generation" includes towns and cities known as original
capitals of founding Yoruba kingdoms or states.
The "second generation" consists of settlements created by conquest.
The "third generation" consists of villages and municipalities that
emerged following the internecine wars of the 19th century.
Pre-colonial government of Yoruba society
Map of the Yoruba cultural area, showing some settlements
Main article: Yorubaland
Oyo Empire § Political Structure
Oyo Empire and surrounding states
Monarchies were a common form of government in Yorubaland, but they
were not the only approach to government and social organization. The
Ijebu city-states to the west of Oyo and the Ẹgba
communities, found in the forests below Ọyọ's savanna region, were
notable exceptions. These independent polities often elected an Ọba,
though real political, legislative, and judicial powers resided with
the Ogboni, a council of notable elders. The notion of the divine king
was so important to the Yoruba, however, that it has been part of
their organization in its various forms from their antiquity to the
During the internecine wars of the 19th century, the
citizens of more than 150 Ẹgba and Owu communities to migrate to the
fortified city of Abeokuta. Each quarter retained its own Ogboni
council of civilian leaders, along with an Olorogun, or council of
military leaders, and in some cases its own elected Obas or Baales.
These independent councils elected their most capable members to join
a federal civilian and military council that represented the city as a
whole. Commander Frederick Forbes, a representative of the British
Crown writing an account of his visit to the city in the Church
Military Intelligencer (1853), described
Abẹokuta as having
"four presidents", and the system of government as having "840
principal rulers or 'House of Lords,' 2800 secondary chiefs or 'House
of Commons,' 140 principal military ones and 280 secondary ones."
Abẹokuta and its system of government as "the most
extraordinary republic in the world."
Gerontocratic leadership councils that guarded against the
monopolization of power by a monarch were a trait of the Ẹgba,
according to the eminent Ọyọ historian Reverend Samuel Johnson.
Such councils were also well-developed among the northern Okun groups,
the eastern Ekiti, and other groups falling under the Yoruba ethnic
coming under an umbrella. In Ọyọ, the most centralized of the
precolonial kingdoms, the Alaafin consulted on all political decisions
with the prime elector or president of the House of Lords (the
Basọrun) and the rest of the council of leading nobles known as the
Traditionally kingship and chieftainship were not determined by simple
primogeniture, as in most monarchic systems of government. An
electoral college of lineage heads was and still is usually charged
with selecting a member of one of the royal families from any given
realm, and the selection is then confirmed by an
request. The Ọbas live in palaces that are usually in the center of
the town. Opposite the king's palace is the Ọja Ọba, or the king's
market. These markets form an inherent part of Yoruba life.
Traditionally their traders are well organized, have various guilds,
officers, and an elected speaker. They also often have at least one
Iyaloja, or Lady head of the Market, who is expected to
represent their interests in the aristocratic council of oloyes at the
Traditional torque currency made from copper alloy was a form of
collar money (mondua) used in the Yoruba country, 17th century,
Brooklyn Museum 1997
The monarchy of any city-state was usually limited to a number of
royal lineages. A family could be excluded from kingship and
chieftaincy if any family member, servant, or slave belonging to the
family committed a crime, such as theft, fraud, murder or rape. In
other city-states, the monarchy was open to the election of any
free-born male citizen. In Ilesa, Ondo,
Akure and other Yoruba
communities, there were several, but comparatively rare, traditions of
female Ọbas. The kings were traditionally almost always polygamous
and often married royal family members from other domains, thereby
creating useful alliances with other rulers. Ibadan, a city-state
and proto-empire founded in the 18th century by a polyglot group of
refugees, soldiers, and itinerant traders from Ọyọ and the other
Yoruba sub-groups largely dispensed with the concept of monarchism,
preferring to elect both military and civil councils from a pool of
eminent citizens. The city became a military republic, with
distinguished soldiers wielding political power through their election
by popular acclaim and the respect of their peers. Similar practices
were adopted by the Ijẹsa and other groups, which saw a
corresponding rise in the social influence of military adventurers and
successful entrepreneurs. The Ìgbómìnà were renowned for their
agricultural and hunting prowess, as well as their woodcarving,
leather art, and the famous Elewe masquerade.
Groups, organizations and leagues in Yorubaland
Occupational guilds, social clubs, secret or initiatory societies, and
religious units, commonly known as Ẹgbẹ in Yoruba, included the
Parakoyi (or league of traders) and Ẹgbẹ Ọdẹ (hunter's guild),
and maintained an important role in commerce, social control, and
vocational education in Yoruba polities. There are also examples of
other peer organizations in the region. When the
Ẹgba resisted the imperial domination of the Ọyọ Empire, a
figure named Lisabi is credited with either creating or reviving a
covert traditional organization named Ẹgbẹ Aro. This group,
originally a farmers' union, was converted to a network of secret
militias throughout the Ẹgba forests, and each lodge plotted and
successfully managed to overthrow Ọyọ's Ajeles (appointed
administrators) in the late 18th century.
Similarly, covert military resistance leagues like the Ekiti Parapọ
and the Ogidi alliance were organized during the 19th century wars by
often-decentralized communities of the Ekiti, Ijẹsa, Ìgbómìnà
and Okun Yoruba in order to resist various imperial expansionist plans
of Ibadan, Nupe, and the Sokoto Caliphate.
Society and culture
Yoruba mother and child, 1848
Main article: Yoruba culture
In the city-states and many of their neighbours, a reserved way of
life remains, with the school of thought of their people serving as a
major influence in
West Africa and elsewhere.
Today, most contemporary Yoruba are Christians and Muslims. Be that as
it may, many of the principles of the traditional faith of their
ancestors are either knowingly or unknowingly upheld by a significant
proportion of the populations of Nigeria,
Benin and Togo.[citation
Religion and mythology
Main article: Yoruba religion
Further information: Yoruba medicine
The Yoruba faith, variously known as Aborisha, Orisha-Ifa or simply
(and erroneously) Ifa, is commonly seen as one of the principal
components of the African traditional religions.
Orisa'nla, also known as Ọbatala, was the arch-divinity chosen
by Olodumare, the Supreme God, to create solid land out of the
primordial water that then constituted the earth and populating the
land with human beings molded out of clay.
Traditional Yoruba religion
The Yorùbá religion comprises the traditional religious and
spiritual concepts and practices of the Yoruba people. Its
homeland is in Southwestern
Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin
and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland. Yorùbá
religion is formed of diverse traditions and has no single
founder. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of itan, the total
complex of songs, histories, stories and other cultural concepts which
make up the Yorùbá society.
Cockerel on Osun chalice. In the Yoruba creation story,
supreme God sent
Obatala to earth to create mankind. One of the things
he took with him was a rooster, which spread soil over the earth by
using its clawed feet
One of the most common Yoruba traditional religious concepts has been
the concept of Orisha.
Orisha (also spelled
Orisa or Orixa) are
various godly forms, that reflect one of the various manifestations /
avatars of God in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system. Some
Orisha are Ogun, (God of metal, war and victory), Shango
or Jakuta (God of thunder, lightning, fire and justice who manifests
as a king always wielding a double-edged axe which conveys his Ashe or
divine authority & power), Esu/
Eshu elegbara (The trickster and
sole messenger to the pantheon, who conveys the wish of men to the
gods. He understands every language / tongue spoken by humankind, and
is also the guardian of the crossroads, Oríta méta in Yoruba). Eshu
has two avatar forms which are manifestations of his dual nature-
positive and negative energies;
Eshu Laroye, a teacher instructor and
Eshu Ebita, jesty, deceitful, suggestive and cunning,
Orunmila, The god of Infinite Knowledge, divination, wisdom and
fortune-telling, who reveals the past, solution to problems in the
present, and the future, consulted through the Ifa divination system
by oracles called Babalawos.
An Iroke or Irofa (Ìròkè Ifá) is the divination tapper of the
Yoruba. It is long, slender and often slightly curved. Used in
combination with the Opon Ifa or divination board. Traditionally made
from Ivory, but also brass & wood.
Olorun is one of the manifestations / avatars of the Supreme God of
the Yoruba pantheon, the owner of the heavens, and is associated with
the Sun known as Oòrùn in the Yoruba language. The other two avatar
forms of the supreme God are; Olodumare, the supreme creator and
Olofin, who is the conduit between Òrunn (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth),
Oshumare a god that manifests in the form of a rainbow, also known as
Òsùmàrè in Yorùbá,
Obatala god of clarity and creativity
Etc. This religion has found its way throughout the world and is
now expressed in practices as varied as
Candomblé in Brazil,
Cuba and North America, orisha or ifa in
Kélé in Saint Lucia, Anago and
Oyotunji, as well as in some aspects of Umbanda, Winti, Obeah,
Vodun and a host of others. These varieties, or spiritual lineages as
they are called, are practiced throughout areas of Nigeria, the
Republic of Benin, Togo, Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto
Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Uruguay,
Argentina and Venezuela, among others. As interest in African
indigenous religions grows,
Orisha communities and lineages can be
found in parts of
Asia as well. While estimates may vary,
some scholars believe that there could be more than 100 million
adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.
Main article: Oduduwa
Beaded crown (Adé) of a Yoruba Oba, the Ogoga of Ikere, Ekiti State.
According to Yoruba customs, only kings who are direct descendants of
Oduduwa can wear a beaded crown.
Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba recounts Odùduwà to be the Progenitor
of the Yoruba and the reigning ancestor of their crowned kings.
His coming from the east, sometimes understood from
Ife traditions to
be Oke-Ora and by other sources as the "vicinity" true East on the
Cardinal points, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and
Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland/central Nigeria. Ekiti
is near the confluence of the
Niger and Benue rivers, and is where the
Yoruba language is presumed to have separated from related
ethno-linguistic groups like Igala, Igbo, and Edo.
After the death of Oduduwa, there was a dispersal of his children from
Ife to found other kingdoms. Each child made his or her mark in the
subsequent urbanization and consolidation of the Yoruba confederacy of
kingdoms, with each kingdom tracing its origin due to them to Ile-Ife.
After the dispersal, the aborigines became difficult, and constituted
a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be survivors of
the old occupants of the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these
people now turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town
in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and
burn down houses and loot the markets. Then came Moremi on the scene;
she was said to have played a significant role in the quelling of the
marauders advancements. But this was at a great price; having to give
up her only son Oluorogbo. The reward for her patriotism and
selflessness was not to be reaped in one lifetime as she later passed
on and was thereafter immortalized. The Edi festival celebrates this
feat amongst her Yoruba descendants.
See also: Yoruba religion
Iwori Meji, one of the sixteen principal of 256 Odus (corpus of Ifa
Yoruba culture consists of folk/cultural philosophy, religion and
folktales. They are embodied in Ifa-
Ife Divination, known as the
tripartite Book of Enlightenment in
Yorubaland and in its diaspora.
Yoruba cultural thought is a witness of two epochs. The first epoch is
a history of cosmogony and cosmology. This is also an epoch-making
history in the oral culture during which time
Oduduwa was the king,
the Bringer of Light, pioneer of Yoruba folk philosophy, and a
prominent diviner. He pondered the visible and invisible worlds,
reminiscing about cosmogony, cosmology, and the mythological creatures
in the visible and invisible worlds. His time favored the
artist-philosophers who produced magnificent naturalistic artworks of
civilization during and pre-dynastic Yorubaland.The second epoch is
the epoch of metaphysical discourse, and the birth of modern
artist-philosophy. This commenced in the 19th century in terms of the
academic prowess of Bishop Dr.
Ajayi Crowther (1807–1891.) Although
religion is often first in Yoruba culture, nonetheless, it is the
philosophy, the thought of man that actually leads spiritual
consciousness (ori) to the creation and the practice of religion.
Thus, it is believed that thought (philosophy) is an antecedent to
religion. Values such as respect, peaceful co-existence, loyalty and
freedom of speech are both upheld and highly valued in Yoruba culture.
Societies which are considered secret societies often strictly guard
and encourage the observance of moral values. Today, the academic and
nonacademic communities are becoming more interested in Yoruba
culture. More research is being carried out on Yoruba cultural thought
as more books are being written on the subject.
Islam and Christianity
The Yoruba are traditionally a very religious people, and are today
pluralistic in their religious convictions. The Yoruba are one of
the more religiously diversified ethnic groups in Africa. Many Yorubas
can be found in different types of
Christian denominations. Many
others are Muslims, as well as practitioners of the traditional Yoruba
religion. Yoruba religious practices such as the Eyo and Osun-Osogbo
festivals are witnessing a resurgence in popularity in contemporary
Yorubaland. They are largely seen by the adherents of the modern
faiths, especially the Christians and Muslims, as cultural rather than
religious events. They participate in them as a means to celebrate
their people's history, and boost tourist industries in their local
Anna Hinderer church and mission house at Ibadan, 1850s
The Yorubas were one of the first groups in
West Africa to be
Christianity on a large scale.
with western civilization) came into
Yorubaland in the mid-19th
century through the Europeans, whose original mission was
commerce. The first European visitors were the
Portuguese, they visited the Bini kingdom in the late 16th century, as
time progressed other Europeans- such as the French, the British, and
the Germans followed suit. British and French were most successful in
their quest for colonies (These Europeans actually split Yorubaland,
with the larger part being in British Nigeria, and the minor parts in
French Dahomey, now Benin, and German Togoland). Home governments
encouraged religious organizations to come, and to Christianize the
so-called "animist" Africans. Roman Catholics (known to the Yorubas as
Ijo Aguda, so named after returning former Yoruba slaves from Latin
America, who were mostly Catholic, and were also known as the Agudas,
Saros or Amaros) started the race, followed by Protestants, whose
Church Mission Society
Church Mission Society (CMS) based in
the most significant in-roads into the hinterland regions for
evangelism and became the largest of the
Methodists (known as Ijo-Eleto, so named after the Yoruba word for
"method or process") started missions in Agbadarigi / Gbegle by Thomas
Birch Freeman in 1842. Henry Townsend, C.C.Gollmer, and Ajayi Crowther
of the CMS worked in Abeokuta, then under the Egba division of
Nigeria in 1846.
Hinderer and Mann of CMS started missions in
Ibadan / Ibarapa and
Ijaye divisions of the present Oyo state in 1853. The Baptist
missionaries-Bowen and Clarke concentrated on the northern Yoruba
Ogbomoso and environs). With their success, other religious
groups- Salvation Army, Evangelists Commission of
West Africa (ECWA)
became popular among the
Igbomina and other non-denominational
Christian groups joined. The increased tempo of
Christianity led to
the appointment of Saros and indigenes as missionaries, this move was
initiated by Venn, the CMS Secretary. Nevertheless, the impact of
Christianity in Yoruba land was not felt until fourth decade of 19th
century, when a Yoruba slave boy,
Samuel Ajayi Crowther
Samuel Ajayi Crowther had become a
Christian convert, linguist, whose knowledge in languages would become
a major tool and instrument to propagate
Christianity in Yoruba land
and beyond. Today, there are a number of Yoruba Pastors and Church
founders with large congregations, e.g. Pastor
Enoch Adeboye of the
Christian Church of God, Pastor
David Oyedepo of Living Faith
Church World Wide also known as Winners Chapel, Pastor
Tunde Bakare of
Latter rain Assembly, Prophet
T. B. Joshua
T. B. Joshua of Synagogue of All
Nations, William Folorunso Kumuyi of Deeper
Christian Life Ministry
and Dr Daniel Olukoya of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries.
The Yoruba are known for their love of privacy and respect for other
ethnic groups - particularly around bigger cities such as
Lagos and in
Islam came into
Yorubaland centuries before
Christianity and before
the first Europeans ever set foot in Yorubaland. Yorubas first came in
Islam around the 14th century, as a result of trade with
the Fulanis of the Malian Empire, during the reign of Mansa Kankan
Musa. Hence, why
Islam is traditionally known to the Yoruba as
Esin Male or simply Imale i.e. religion of the Malians. On the other
hand, another school of thought describes Imale as a compound form of
the Yoruba phrase "imo lile" which literally means "hard knowledge".
This definition of the Islamic
Religion is simply due to the way the
adherents of the religion sought to spread
Islam forcefully, thus the
word "lile" in Yoruba which could also be translated as "with force".
Islam was practiced in
Yorubaland so early on in history,
that a sizable proportion of Yoruba slaves taken to the Americas were
already Muslim. Some of these Yoruba Muslims would later on stage
Malê Revolt (or The Great Revolt) which was the most significant
slave rebellion in Brazil. On a Sunday during Ramadan in January 1835,
in the city of Salvador, Bahia, a small group of slaves and freedmen,
Muslim teachers, rose up against the government. Muslims
were called Malê in
Bahia at this time, from Yoruba Imale that
designated a Yoruba Muslim.
According to Al-Aluri, the first Mosque was built in Ọyọ-Ile /
Katunga in 1550 A.D. although, there were no Yoruba Muslims at the
time, the Mosque served the spiritual needs of foreign Muslims living
in Ọyọ. Progressively,
Islam started to gain a foothold in
Yorubaland, and Muslims started building Mosques: Iwo town led, its
first Mosque built in 1655 followed by Iṣẹyin, in 1760; Eko/Lagos
got its first mosque in 1774; Shaki, 1790; and Oṣogbo, 1889. In
Islam spread to other towns like Oyo (the first Oyo convert was
Solagberu), Ibadan, Abẹokuta,
Ijebu Ode, Ikirun, and Ede, all
already had sizable
Muslim communities before the 19th century Sokoto
jihad. Several factors contributed to the rise of
Islam in Yoruba land
by mid 19th century. Before the decline of Ọyọ, several towns
around it had large
Muslim communities, however, when Ọyọ was
destroyed, these Muslims (Yorubas and immigrants) relocated to newly
formed towns and villages and became
Secondly, there was a mass movement of people at this time into Yoruba
land, many of these immigrants were Muslims who introduced
their hosts. According to Eades, the religion "differed in attraction"
and "better adapted to Yoruba social structure, because it permitted
polygamy", which was already a feature of various African societies;
more influential Yorubas like (Seriki Kuku of
Ijebu land) soon became
Muslims with positive impact on the natives.
Islam came to
about the same time as other Yoruba towns, however, it received royal
support from Ọba Kosọkọ, after he came back from exile in
Ẹpẹ. Islam, like
Christianity also found a common ground with the
natives who already believed in a Supreme Being
Olodumare / Olorun.
Without delay, Islamic scholars and local Imams started establishing
Koranic centers to teach
Arabic and Islamic studies, much later,
conventional schools were established to educate new converts and to
propagate Islam. Today, the Yorubas constitute the second largest
Muslim group in Nigeria, after the
Hausa people of the Northern
provinces. They are mostly Sunni Muslims, with small Ahmadiyya
Traditional art and architecture
Main article: Yoruba art
Terracotta head representing oni or King of Ife, 12th to 16th century
Medieval Yoruba settlements were surrounded with massive mud
walls. Yoruba buildings had similar plans to the Ashanti shrines,
but with verandahs around the court. The wall materials comprised
puddled mud and palm oil while roofing materials ranged from
thatches to aluminium and corrugated iron sheets. A famous Yoruba
Sungbo's Eredo was the second largest wall edifice
in Africa. The structure was built in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries
in honour of a traditional aristocrat, the Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo. It
was made up of sprawling mud walls and the valleys that surrounded the
town of Ijebu-Ode in
Sungbo's Eredo is the largest
pre-colonial monument in Africa, larger than the Great Pyramid or
The Yorubas worked with a wide array of materials in their art
including; bronze, leather, terracotta, ivory, textiles, copper,
stone, carved wood, brass, ceramics and glass. A unique feature of
Yoruba art, is their striking realism-which unlike most African art,
choose to create human sculptures in vivid realistic and life sized
forms. The art history of the nearby
Benin empire show that there was
a cross - fertilization of ideas between the neighboring Yoruba and
the Edo. The
Benin court's brass casters learned their art from an Ife
master named Iguegha, who had been sent from
Ife around 1400 at the
request of Benin's oba Oguola. Indeed, the earliest dated cast-brass
memorial heads from
Benin replicate the refined naturalism of the
Yoruba sculptures from Ife.
Intricately carved ivory bracelet from the
Yoruba people of Owo
A lot of Yoruba artworks, including staffs, court dress, and beadwork
for crowns, are associated with palaces and the royal
courts. The courts also commissioned numerous
architectural objects such as veranda posts, gates, and doors that are
embellished with carvings. Yoruba palaces are usually built with
thicker walls, are dedicated to the gods and play significant
Yoruba art is also manifested in shrines and masking
traditions. The shrines dedicated to these gods are adorned with
carvings and house and array of altar figures and other ritual
paraphernalia. Masking traditions vary by region, and diverse mask
types are used in various festivals and celebrations. Aspects of
Yoruba traditional architecture has also found its way into the New
World in the form of shotgun houses. Today,
however the traditional architecture has been greatly influenced by
Gèlèdé costumes from a Yoruba-Nago community in Benin
Masquerades are an important feature of Yoruba traditional artistry.
They are generally known as Egúngún, singularly as Egún. The term
refers to the Yoruba masquerades connected with ancestor reverence, or
to the ancestors themselves as a collective force. There are different
types of which one of the most prominent is the Gelede. An Ese
Ifa (oral literature of orunmila divination) explains the origins of
Gelede as beginning with Yemoja, The Mother of all the orisa and all
Yemoja could not have children and consulted an Ifa
oracle, who advised her to offer sacrifices and to dance with wooden
images on her head and metal anklets on her feet. After performing
this ritual, she became pregnant. Her first child was a boy, nicknamed
"Efe" (the humorist/joker); the Efe mask emphasizes song and jests
because of the personality of its namesake. Yemoja's second child was
a girl, nicknamed "Gelede" because she was obese like her mother. Also
like her mother,
Gelede loved dancing.
After getting married themselves, neither
Gelede or Efe's partner
could have children. The Ifa oracle suggested they try the same ritual
that had worked for their mother. No sooner than Efe and Gelede
performed these rituals- dancing with wooden images on their heads and
metal anklets on their feet- they started having children. These
rituals developed into the
Gelede masked dance and was perpetuated by
the descendants of Efe and Gelede. This narrative is one of many
stories that explains the origin of Gelede. An outdated theory stated
that the beginning of
Gelede might be associated with the change from
a matriarchal to a patriarchal society among the Yoruba people.
Gelede spectacle and the Ifa divination system represent two of
Nigeria's only three pieces on the United Nations Oral and Intangible
Heritages of Humanity list, as well as the only such cultural heritage
Benin and Togo.
The Arugba leading the procession to the Osun grove
One of the first observations of first time visitors to
the rich, pomp and ceremonial nature of their culture, which is made
even more visible by the urbanized structures of Yoruba settlements.
These occasions are avenues to experience the richness of the Yoruba
culture. Traditional musicians are always on hand to grace the
occasions with heavy rhythms and extremely advanced percussion which
the Yorubas are well known for world over. Praise singers and
Griots are there to add their historical insight to the meaning and
significance of the ceremony, and of course the varieties of colorful
dresses and attires worn by the people, attest to the aesthetic sense
of the average Yoruba.
Carved ceremonial ivory containers from the Yoruba polity of Owo,
which flourished 1400-1600
The Yoruba are a very expressive people who celebrate major events
with colorful festivals and celebrations (Ayeye). Some of these
festivals (about thirteen principal ones) are secular and only
mark achievements and milestones in the achievement of mankind, these
include wedding ceremonies (Ìgbéyàwó), Naming ceremonies
(Ìsomolórúko), Funerals (Ìsìnkú), Housewarming (Ìsílé),
New-Yam festival (Ìjesu), Odon itsu in Atakpame, Harvest ceremonies
(Ìkórè), Birth (Ìbí), Chieftaincy (Ìjòyè) and so forth.
Others have a more spiritual connotation, such as the various days and
celebrations dedicated to specific
Orisha like the
Ogun day (Ojó
Ògún), The Osun festival, which is usually done at the Osun-Osogbo
sacred grove located on the banks of the
Osun river and around the
ancient town of Osogbo. The festival is dedicated to the river
goddess Osun, which is usually celebrated in the month of August (Osù
Ògùn) yearly. The festival attracts thousands of Osun worshippers
from all over
Yorubaland and The Yoruba diaspora in the Americas,
spectators and tourists from all walks of life. The Osun-Osogbo
Festival is a two-week-long programme. It starts with the traditional
cleansing of the town called 'Iwopopo', which is then followed in
three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp
called Ina Olojumerindinlogun, which literally means The sixteen eyed
fire, the lighting of this sacred lamp, heralds the beginning of the
Osun festival. Then comes the 'Ibroriade', an assemblage of the crowns
of the past ruler, Ataojas of Osogbo, for blessings. This event is led
by the sitting Ataoja of
Osogbo and the Arugba Yeye Osun (who is
usually a young maiden dressed in white), who carries a sacred white
calabash that contains propitiation materials meant for the goddess
Osun, she is also accompanied by a committee of priestesses.
A similar event holds in the
New World as Odunde Festival.
Eyo figure in Lagos
Another very popular festival with spiritual connotations is the Eyo
Olokun festival or
Orisha play, celebrated by the people of Lagos. The
Eyo festival is a dedication to the God of the Sea Olokun, who is an
Orisha, and whose name literally mean Owner of the Seas.
Generally, there is no customarily defined time for the staging the
Eyo Festival, this leads to a building anticipation as to what date
would be decided upon. Once a date for its performance is selected and
announced, the festival preparations begin. It encompasses a week-long
series of activities, and culminates in a striking procession of
thousands of men clothed in white and wearing a variety of coloured
hats, called Aga. The procession moves through
Lagos Island Isale Eko,
which is the historical centre of the
Lagos metropolis. On the
streets, they move through various crucial locations and landmarks in
the city, including the palace of the traditional ruler of Lagos, the
Oba, known as the Iga Idunganran. The festival starts from dusk to
dawn, and has been held on Saturdays (Ojó Àbáméta) from time
immemorial. A full week before the festival (always a Sunday), the
'senior' eyo group, the Adimu (identified by a black, broad-rimmed
hat), goes public with a staff. When this happens, it means the event
will take place on the following Saturday. Each of the four other
'important' groups — Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green) and
Agere (Purple) — take their turns in that order from Monday to
The Eyo masquerade essentially admits tall people, which is why it is
described as Agogoro Eyo (literally meaning the tall Eyo masquerade).
In the manner of a spirit (An Orisha) visiting the earth on a purpose,
the Eyo masquerade speaks in a ventriloquial voice, suggestive of its
otherworldliness; and when greeted, it replies: Mo yo fun e, mo yo fun
ara mi which in Yoruba means: (I rejoice for you, and I rejoice for
myself). This response connotes the masquerades as rejoicing with the
person greeting it for the witnessing of the day, and its own joy at
taking the hallowed responsibility of cleansing. During the festival,
Sandals and foot wears, as well as Suku: A hairstyle that is popular
among the Yorubas, one that has the hair converge at the middle, then
shoot upward, before tipping downward, are prohibited. The festival
has also taken a more touristic dimension in recent times, which like
Osogbo festival, attracts visitors from all across Nigeria,
as well as Yoruba diaspora populations. In-fact, it is widely believed
that the play is one of the manifestations of the customary African
revelry that serves as the forerunner of the modern carnival in Brazil
and other parts of the New World, which may have been started by the
Yoruba slaves transplanted in that part of the world due to the
Atlantic slave trade.
Yoruba music and Batá drum
Batá drum – from left: Okónkolo, Iyá, Itótele
The music of the
Yoruba people is perhaps best known for an extremely
advanced drumming tradition, especially using the dundun
hourglass tension drums. The representation of musical instruments on
sculptural works from Ile-Ife, indicates, in general terms a
substantial accord with oral traditions. A lot of these musical
instruments date back to the classical period of Ile-Ife, which began
at around the 10th century A.D. Some were already present prior to
this period, while others were created later. The hourglass tension
drum (Dùndún) for example, may have been introduced around the 15th
century (1400's), the
Benin bronze plaques of the middle period
depicts them. Others like the double and single iron clapper-less
bells are examples of instruments that preceded classical Ife.
Yoruba folk music became perhaps the most prominent kind of West
African music in Afro-Latin and
Caribbean musical styles. Yorùbá
music left an especially important influence on the music of Trinidad,
the Lukumi religious traditions, practice and the music of
Yoruba hollow slit drum
Yoruba drums typically belong to four major families, which are used
depending on the context or genre where they are played. The Dùndún
/ Gángan family, is the class of hourglass shaped talking drums,
which imitate the sound of Yoruba speech. This is possible because the
Yoruba language is tonal in nature. It is the most common and is
present in many Yoruba traditions, such as Apala, Jùjú,
Afrobeat. The second is the Sakara family. Typically, they played a
ceremonial role in royal settings, weddings and Oríkì recitation; it
is predominantly found in traditions such as Sakara music, Were and
Fuji music. The
Gbedu family (literally, "large drum") is used by
secret fraternities such as the
Ogboni and royal courts. Historically,
only the Oba might dance to the music of the drum. If anyone else used
the drum they were arrested for sedition of royal authority. The
Gbèdu are conga shaped drums played while they sit on the ground.
Akuba drums (a trio of smaller conga-like drums related to the gbèdu)
are typically used in afrobeat. The Ogido is a cousin of the gbedu. It
is also shaped like a conga but with a wider array of sounds and a
bigger body. It also has a much deeper sound than the conga. It is
sometimes referred to as the "bass drum". Both hands play directly on
the Ogido drum.
Today, the word
Gbedu has also come to be used to describe forms of
Afrobeat and Hip Hop music. The fourth major family of Yoruba
drums is the Bàtá family which are well decorated double faced
drums, with various tones. They were historically played in sacred
rituals. They are believed to have been introduced by Shango, an
Orisha, during his earthly incarnations as a warrior king. Traditional
Yoruba drummers are known as Àyán. The Yoruba believe that
Àyángalú was the first drummer. He is also believed to be the
spirit or muse that inspires drummers during renditions. This is why
some Yoruba family names contain the prefix 'Ayan-' such as Ayangbade,
Ayantunde, Ayanwande. Ensembles using the dundun play a type of
music that is also called dundun. The
Ashiko (Cone shaped drums),
Gudugudu (Kettledrums in the Dùndún family),
Bèmbé are other drums of importance. The leader of a dundun ensemble
is the oniyalu meaning; ' Owner of the mother drum ', who uses the
drum to "talk" by imitating the tonality of Yoruba. Much of this music
is spiritual in nature, and is often devoted to the Orisas.
Agogo metal gongs
Within each drum family there are different sizes and roles; the lead
drum in each family is called Ìyá or Ìyá Ìlù, which means
"Mother drum", while the supporting drums are termed Omele. Yoruba
drumming exemplifies West-African cross-rhythms and is considered to
be one of the most advanced drumming traditions in the world.
Generally, improvisation is restricted to master drummers. Some other
instruments found in
Yoruba music include, but are not limited to; The
Gòjé (violin), Shèkèrè (gourd rattle),
Agidigbo (thumb piano that
takes the shape of a plucked Lamellophone), Saworo (metal rattles for
the arm and ankles, also used on the rim of the bata drum), Fèrè
(whistles), Aro (Cymbal)s,
Agogô (bell), different types of flutes
include the Ekutu, Okinkin & Igba.
The talking drum
Oriki (praise singing), a genre of sung poetry, which contains a
series of proverbial phrases, praising or characterizing the
respective person is of Egba and Ekiti origin, is often considered the
oldest Yoruba musical tradition.
Yoruba music is typically
Polyrhythmic, which can be described as interlocking sets of rhythms
that fit together somewhat like the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. There
is a basic timeline and each instrument plays a pattern in relation to
that timeline. The resulting ensemble provides the typical sound of
West African Yoruba drumming. Yorùbá music is regarded as the most
important components of the modern Nigerian popular music scene.
Yoruba music was not influenced by foreign music,
the same cannot be said of modern-day
Yoruba music which has evolved
and adapted itself through contact with foreign instruments, talent
Twins in Yoruba society
Main article: Ibeji
Ibeji figures representing twins. Yorubas have the highest
twinning rate in the world.
The Yoruba present the highest dizygotic twinning rate in the world
(4.4% of all maternities). They manifest at 45–50 twin sets
(or 90–100 twins) per 1,000 live births, possibly because of high
consumption of a specific type of yam containing a natural
phytoestrogen which may stimulate the ovaries to release an egg from
each side. Twins are very important for the Yoruba and they usually
tend to give special names to each twin. The first of the twins
to be born is traditionally named Taiyewo or Tayewo, which means 'the
first to taste the world', or the 'slave to the second twin', this is
often shortened to Taiwo, Taiye or Taye. Kehinde is the name of the
last born twin. Kehinde is sometimes also referred to as
Kehindegbegbon which is short for; Omo kehin de gba egbon and means,
'the child that came behind gets the rights of the elder'.
Main article: Yoruba calendar
Time is measured in ìṣẹ́jú (minutes), wákàtí (hours),
ọjọ́ (days), ọ̀sẹ̀ (weeks), oṣù (months) and ọdún
(years). There are 60 ìṣẹ́jú in 1 wákàtí; 24 wákàtí in 1
ọjọ́; 7 ọjọ́ in 1 ọ̀sẹ̀; 4 ọ̀sẹ̀ in 1 oṣù and
52 ọ̀sẹ̀ in 1 ọdún. There are 12 oṣù in 1 ọdún.
Months in Yoruba calendar:
Months in Gregorian calendar:
The Yoruba week consist of five days. Of these, only four have names.
Traditionally, the Yoruba count their week starting from the Ojó
Ògún, this day is dedicated to Ògún. The second day is Ojó
Jákúta the day is dedicated to Sàngó. The third day is known as
the Ojó Òsè- this day is dedicated to Òrìshà ńlá (Obàtálá),
while the fourth day is the Ojó Awo, in honour of Òrúnmìlà.
Yoruba calendar traditional days
Ojó Ògún (Ògún)
Ojó Jákúta (Shàngó)
Ojó Òsè (Òrìshà ńlá / Obàtálá)
Ojó Awo (Òrúnmìlà / Ifá)
Yoruba calendar (Kojoda) year starts from 3 June to 2 June of the
following year. According to this calendar, the Gregorian year
2008 CE is the 10,050th year of Yoruba culture. To reconcile with
the Gregorian calendar,
Yoruba people also often measure time in seven
days a week and four weeks a month:
Modified days in Yoruba calendar
Days in Gregorian calendar
Solid food, mostly cooked, pounded or prepared with hot water are
basic staple foods of the Yoruba. These foods are all by-products of
crops like cassava, yams, cocoyam and forms a huge chunk of it all.
Others like Plantain, corn, beans, meat, and fish are also chief
Some common Yoruba foods are iyan (pounded yam), Amala, eba, semo,
Moin moin (bean cake) and akara. Soups include egusi, ewedu,
okra, vegetables are also very common as part of diet. Items like rice
and beans (locally called ewa) are part of the regular diet. Some
dishes are also prepared for festivities and ceremonies such as Jollof
rice and Fried rice. Other popular dishes are Ekuru, stews, corn,
cassava and flours – e.g. maize, yam, plantain and beans, eggs,
chicken, beef and assorted forms of meat (pumo is made from cow skin).
Some less well known meals and many miscellaneous staples are
arrowroot gruel, sweetmeats, fritters and coconut concoctions; and
some breads – yeast bread, rock buns, and palm wine bread to name a
Yoruba cultural dishes
Àmàlà is a brown doughy dish made from yam and cssava flour usually
eaten with stews, soups and other recipes.
Akara is a recipe by the Yoruba, which has been adopted by the rest of
Nigeria. It is present in the Americas as acarajé
Eba is a doughy dish made by processing garri in hot water and turning
till it becomes a consistent dough (shown combined with other dishes).
Iyan or pounded yam with mixed vegetables and fish stew
Cut Moin Moin; "ewe eran" leaves (Thaumatococcus daniellii) are
traditionally used to improve flavouring.
Dressing and clothing
Yoruba drummers, wearing very basic traditional clothing
The Yoruba take immense pride in their attire, for which they are well
known. Clothing materials traditionally come from processed cotton by
traditional weavers. They believe that the type of clothes worn by a
man depicts his personality and social status, and that different
occasions require different clothing outfits.
Typically, The Yoruba have a very wide range of materials used to make
clothing, the most basic being the Aṣo-Oke, which is a hand loomed
cloth of different patterns and colors sewn into various styles.
and which comes in very many different colors and patterns. Aso Oke
comes in three major styles based on pattern and coloration;
Alaari - a rich red Aṣọ-Oke,
Sanyan - a brown and usual light brown Aṣọ-Oke, and
Ẹtu - a dark blue Aṣọ-Oke.
Other clothing materials include but are not limited to:
Ofi - pure white yarned cloths, used as cover cloth, it can be sewn
Aran - a velvet clothing material of silky texture sewn into Danṣiki
and Kẹmbẹ, worn by the rich.
Adirẹ - cloth with various patterns and designs, dye in indigo ink
(Ẹlu or Aro).
Agbada clothing historically worn by Yoruba men
Yoruba culture is gender sensitive, despite a tradition of
non-gender conforming families. For menswear, they have Bùbá, Esiki
and Sapara, which are regarded as Èwù Àwòtélè or underwear,
while they also have Dandogo, Agbádá, Gbariye, Sulia and Oyala,
which are also known as Èwù Àwòlékè / Àwòsókè or overwear.
Some fashionable men may add an accessory to the Agbádá outfit in
the form of a wraparound (Ìbora).
Finished Adire clothing material
They also have various types of Sòkòtò or native trousers that are
sown alongside the above-mentioned dresses. Some of these are Kèmbè
(Three-Quarter baggy pants), Gbáanu, Sóóró (Long slim /
streamlined pants), Káamu & Sòkòtò Elemu. A man's dressing is
considered incomplete without a cap (Fìlà). Some of these caps
include, but are not limited to; Gobi (Cylindrical, which when worn
may be compressed and shaped forward, sideways, or backward), Tinko,
Abetí-ajá (Crest-like shape which derives its name from its hanging
flaps that resembles a dog's hanging ears. The flaps can be lowered to
cover the ears in cold weather, otherwise, they are upwardly turned in
normal weather), Alagbaa, Oribi, Bentigoo, Onide, and Labankada (a
bigger version of the Abetí-ajá, and is worn in such a way as to
reveal the contrasting color of the cloth used as underlay for the
Women also have different types of dresses. The most commonly worn are
Ìró (wrapper) and Bùbá (blouse-like loose top). Women also have
matching Gèlè (head gear) that must be put on whenever the Ìró and
Bùbá is on. Just as the cap (Fìlà) is important to men, women's
dressing is considered incomplete without Gèlè. It may be of plain
cloth or costly as the women can afford. Apart from this, they also
have ìborùn (Shawl) and Ìpèlé (which are long pieces of fabric
that usually hang on the left shoulder and stretch from the hind of
the body to the fore). At times, it is tied round their waists over
the original one piece wrapper. Unlike men, women have two types of
under wears (Èwù Àwòtélè), called; Tòbi and Sinmí. Tòbi is
like the modern day apron with strings and spaces in which women can
keep their valuables. They tie the tòbi around the waists before
putting on the Ìró (wrapper). Sinmí is like a sleeveless T-shirt
that is worn under before wearing any other dress on the upper body.
There are many types of beads (Ìlèkè), hand laces, necklaces (Egba
orùn), anklets (Egba esè) and bangles (Egba owó) that are abound in
Yoruba land, that both males and females put on for bodily adornment.
Chiefs, priests, kings or people of royal descent, especially use some
of these beads, often. Some of these beads include Iyun, Lagidigba,
Àkún etc. An accessory especially popular among royalty and titled
Babalawos / Babalorishas is the Ìrùkèrè, which is an artistically
processed animal tail, a type of Fly-whisk. The horsetail whiskers are
symbols of authority and stateliness. It can be used in a shrine for
decoration but most often is used by chief priests and priestess as a
symbol of their authority or Ashe. As most men go about with
their hair lowly cut or neatly shaven every time, the reverse is the
case with women. Hair is considered the ' Glory of the woman '. They
usually take care of their hair in two major ways; They plait and they
weave. There are many types of plaiting styles, and women readily pick
any type they want. Some of these include kòlésè, Ìpàkó-elédè,
Sùkú, Kojúsóko, Alágogo, Konkoso, Etc. Traditionally, The Yoruba
consider tribal marks ways of adding beauty to the face of
individuals. This is apart from the fact that they show clearly from
which part of
Yorubaland an individual comes from, since different
areas are associated with different marks. Different types of tribal
marks are made with local blades or knives on the cheeks. These are
usually done at infancy, when children are not pain conscious.[medical
citation needed] Some of these tribal marks include Pélé,
Abàjà-Ègbá, Abàjà-Òwu, Abàjà-mérin, Kéké, Gòmbò, Ture,
Pélé Ifè, Kéké Òwu, Pélé Ìjèbú etc. This practice has
almost faded into oblivion.
The Yoruba believe that development of a nation is akin to the
development of a man or woman. Therefore, the personality of an
individual has to be developed in order to fulfill his or her
responsibilities. Clothing among the
Yoruba people is a crucial factor
upon which the personality of an individual is anchored. This belief
is anchored in Yoruba proverbs. Different occasions also require
different outfits among the Yoruba.
Simple Iro & Buba with Gele
Agbádá àti Fìlà from Iseyin, Oyo State
Iro & Bùbá, with Gele & Ipele blouse, wrapper & headgear
Bùbá àti Kèmbè shirt and short baggy pants for men
Embroidered Aso Òkè fabric for women
Agbádá àti Sóró, Agbada and long slim pants for men
Ìró & Bùbá made from African lace material
Estimates of the Yoruba in
Benin vary from around 1.1 to 1.5 million
people. The Yoruba are the main group in the
Benin department of
Ouémé, all Subprefectures including
Porto Novo (Ajasè), Adjara;
Collines Province, all subprefectures including Savè, Dassa-Zoume,
Bante, Tchetti, Gouka; Plateau Province, all Subprefectures including
Kétou, Sakété, Pobè; Borgou Province,
including Tchaourou; Zou Province, Ouihni and Zogbodome Subprefecture;
Bassila Subprefecture and Alibori, Kandi
The chief Yoruba cities or towns in
Ouèssè (Wese), Ketu,
Bantè-Akpassi, Bassila, Ouinhi, Adjarra,
Adja-Ouèrè (Aja Were),
Ifangni (Ifonyi), Pobè, Dassa (Idasha), Glazoue
West Africa (Other)
The Yoruba in
Burkina Faso are numbered around 70,000 people, and
around 60,000 in Niger. In the Ivory Coast, they are concentrated in
the cities of Abidjan (Treichville, Adjamé), Bouake, Korhogo, Grand
Bassam and Gagnoa where they are mostly employed in business retail at
major markets. Otherwise known as "Anago traders", they
dominate certain sectors of the retail economy.
Yoruba area in Nigeria
The Yorubas are the main ethnic groups in the Nigerian federal states
of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Kwara, Oyo, the western third of
Kogi and the
Akoko parts of Edo.
The chief Yoruba cities or towns in
Nigeria are: Abẹokuta, Abigi,
Ado-Ekiti, Agbaja, Ago iwoye, Akungba-akoko, Akurẹ, Atan-otta,
Ayetoro gbede, Badagry, Ede, Efon-alaaye, Egbe, Ejigbo,
Emure-ekiti, Epe, Eruwa, Esa-oke, Esie, Fiditi, Gbongan, Ibadan,
Idanre, Idi-iroko, Ido-ani, Ido-ekiti, Ifo, Ifon, Igbajo, Igangan,
Iganna, Igbeti, Igboho, Igbo-ora, Ijẹbu-igbo, Ijebu-Ijesha, Ijebu
Ode, Ijede, Ijero-ekiti, Ijoko, Ikare-akoko, Ikenne, Ikere-Ekiti,
Ikire, Ikirun, Ikole-ekiti, Ikorodu, Ila-orangun, Ilaje, Ilaro,
Ilawe-ekiti, Ilé-Ifẹ, Ile-oluji, Ilesa, Illah Bunu, Ilobu,
Ilọrin, Imeko, Imota, Inisa, Iperu, Ipetu-Ijesha, Ipetumodu,
Iragbiji, Isanlu, Ise-ekiti, Iseyin, Iwo, Iyara, Jebba, Kabba, Kishi,
Eko/Lagos, Lalupon, Lokoja, Mopa, Obajana, Ode-Irele, Ode-omu, Ore,
Odogbolu, Offa, Ogbomoso, Ogere-remo, Ogidi-ijumu, Oka-akoko, Okeho,
Okitipupa, Okuku, Omu Aran, Omuo,
Ondo City (Ode Ondo),
Oro[disambiguation needed], Osogbo, Sango-otta, Owode, Otun-ekiti,
Owo, Ọyọ, Shagamu, Shaki, Share, Tede, Usi-ekiti.
Estimates of the Yoruba in
Togo vary from around 500,000 to 600,000
people. There are both immigrant Yoruba communities from Nigeria, and
indigenous ancestral Yoruba communities living in Togo. Footballer
Emmanuel Adebayor is an example of a Togolese from an immigrant Yoruba
background. Indigenous Yoruba communities in Togo, however can be
found in the Togolese departments of Plateaux Region, Anie, Ogou and
Est-Mono prefectures; Centrale Region and Tchamba Prefecture. The
chief Yoruba cities or towns in
Togo are: Atakpame, Anié, Morita,
The Yoruba diaspora
See also: Yoruba American, Nigerian American, Nigerian diaspora,
British Nigerian, Nigerians in Ireland, and Nigerian Australian
Distribution of Kru, Ibo and Yoruba speakers in the United States, US
Yoruba people or descendants can be found all over the world
especially in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Cuba,
Brazil, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Significant Yoruba communities can be found in
South America and
Australia. The migration of
Yoruba people all over the world has led
to a spread of the
Yoruba culture across the globe.
Yoruba people have
historically been spread around the globe by the combined forces of
the Atlantic slave trade and voluntary self
migration. Their exact population outside Africa is unknown, but
researchers have established that the majority of the African
component in the ancestry of African Americans is of Yoruba and/or
Yoruba-like extraction. In their Atlantic
world domains, the Yorubas were known by the designations:
"Nago/Anago", "Terranova", "Lucumi" and "Aku", or by the names of
their various clans.
The Yoruba left an important presence in
Cuba and Brazil,
Havana and Bahia. According to a 19th-century
report, "the Yoruba are, still today, the most numerous and
influential in this state of Bahia. The most numerous are
those from Oyo, capital of the Yoruba kingdom". Others
included Ijexa (Ijesha), Lucumi Ota (Aworis), Ketus, Ekitis, Jebus
(Ijebu), Egba, Lucumi Ecumacho (Ogbomosho), and Anagos. In the
documents dating from 1816 to 1850, Yorubas constituted 69.1% of all
slaves whose ethnic origins were known, constituting 82.3% of all
slaves from the Bight of Benin. The proportion of slaves from
West-Central Africa (Angola - Congo) dropped drastically to just
Ancestry estimates for African Americans using discrete African
populations as index show that African Americans have a majority
African component most similar to that of the Yorubas of the Lower
Guinea general region.
Between 1831 and 1852 the African-born slave and free population of
Bahia surpassed that of free
Brazil born Creoles. Meanwhile,
between 1808 and 1842 an average of 31.3% of African-born freed
persons had been Nagô (Yoruba). Between 1851 and 1884, the number had
risen to a dramatic 73.9%.
Other areas which received a significant number of
Yoruba people and
are sites of Yoruba influence are: Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Grenada,
Santa margarita and Belize, British Guyana, Saint-Domingue (Now
Haiti), Jamaica(Where they settled and established such places as
Abeokuta, Naggo head in Portmore, and by their hundreds in other
parishes like Hanover and Westmoreland, both in western Jamaica-
leaving behind practices such as Ettu from Etutu, Yoruba for Atonement
among other customs of people bearing same name, and certain aspects
of Kumina such as Sango
veneration), Barbados, Dominican
republic, Montserrat, etc.
Genetic studies have shown the Yoruba to cluster most closely with
other African peoples.
According to 2017 study
Yoruba people have ~31% prehistoric "Basal
Human" (BE) admixture.
Notable people of Yoruba origin
Main article: List of Yoruba people
^ a b
Nigeria at CIA World Factbook: "Yoruba 21%" out of a population
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