The Yoruba People

The ancient mythology of the Yoruba people is a major religion in Nigeria, claimed by its devotees to be one of the oldest religions in the world and still practiced today.

Introduction

The Yoruba are one of the largest African ethnic groups south of the Sahara Desert. They are, in fact, not a single group, but rather a collection of diverse people bound together by a common language, history, and culture. Within Nigeria, the Yoruba dominate the western part of the country. Yoruba mythology holds that all Yoruba people descended from a hero called Odua or Oduduwa. Today there are over fifty individuals who claim kingship as descendants of Odua.

During the four centuries of the slave trade, Yoruba territory was known as the Slave Coast. Uncounted numbers of Yoruba were carried to the Americas. Their descendants preserved Yoruba traditions. In several parts of the Caribbean and South America, Yoruba religion has been combined with Christianity. In 1893, the Yoruba kingdoms in Nigeria became part of the Protectorate of Great Britain. Until 1960 Nigeria was a British colony and the Yoruba were British subjects. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation structured as a federation of states.

Location

The Yoruba homeland is located in west Africa. It stretches from a savanna (grassland) region in the north to a region of tropical rain forests in the south. Most Yoruba live in Nigeria. However there are also some scattered groups in Benin and Togo, small countries to the west of Nigeria. The occupations and living conditions of the Yoruba in the north and south differ sharply.

Current census figures are difficult to obtain. The Yoruba population is estimated to be 5.3 million.

Family-Life

Every Yoruba is born into a clan whose members are descended from a common ancestor. Descent is patrilineal—both sons and daughters are born into the clan of their father. Clan members live in a large residential area called a compound. The males are born, married, and buried in it. Females live in the compound of their birth until they marry. Then they go to live with their husbands. The eldest male, or Bale, is the head of the compound. A husband is responsible for settling quarrels within his own family. However, if he is unsuccessful or if an argument involves members of two different families, it is referred to the Bale.

Within the compound, the immediate family consists of a man, his wives, and their children. The Yoruba practice polygyny (having more than one wife). Each wife and her children are considered a sub-family. They have a separate room within the husband’s and they share possessions. Each mother cooks for her own children only. A man is expected to treat each wife equally. However, wives compete to gain additional favors for their own children. The father is strict and distant. Often, he sees little of his children. When they are young, children of co-wives play together. However, as they grow older, they usually grow apart because of quarrels over possessions.

Clothing

Western-style dress is worn in urban areas. Traditional clothing is still worn on important occasions and in rural areas. It is very colorful and elaborate. Traditional fabrics were block printed with geometric designs. Women wear a head tie made of a rectangular piece of fabric. They carry babies or young children on their backs by tying another rectangular cloth around their the waists. A third cloth may be worn over the shoulder as a shawl over a loose-fitting, short-sleeved blouse. A larger cloth serves as a wrap-around skirt.

Education

Since attaining independence (1960), Nigeria has set a high priority on education. Universal primary education has become the norm in southern Nigeria, where the Yoruba live. Secondary school (high school) education also became common. The first university in Nigeria was located in a Yoruba city. Originally called University College, it is now known as the University of Ibadan. The majority of students at Ibadan are Yoruba.

Food

There are so many delicious Yoruba meals that people love consuming. They also contain a lot of health benefits, so everyone should try them. Yoruba cuisine is rich and absolutely delicious. You will never forget Yoruba meal once you have tried it.

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