Monday, 14 January 2013


The Yoruba people live in Southwest Nigeria and Benin. They have developed a variety of different artistic forms including pottery, weaving, beadwork, metalwork, and mask making. Most artwork is made to honor the gods and ancestors and since there are more then 401 known gods to the Yoruba there is much sculpture and artwork made. Because of the vastness in the number of gods, the Yoruba have been compared to the ancient Greeks in the amount of gods and in the similarities between the structures of the gods.

The Yoruba have started to become quite popular among Africans all over the world who claim the Yoruba as their family roots and follow the religion and culture of the Yoruba. Many claim that they are part of the Diaspora of the Yoruba as slaves.

The Yoruba originated from a people known as the Oyo who arose and became quite popular by their trading with the Portugues which gave them a large supply of guns. However, they were unable to push back the Fulani who invaded them and pushed much of the Yoruba to the south. In the late 1800's the Yoruba formed a treaty with the Fulani and in 1901 they were colonized by the British. Because of their enmity with the Fulani who are the great Islam evangelists most of the Yoruba do not hold to Islam but instead worship many of the gods and spirits that the Yoruba hold to. Economically the Yoruba primarily engage in agriculture, with about 15% of the people employed as merchants or artists and craftsman.
Historically, the Yoruba were primarily farmers, growing cocoa and yams as cash crops. These are planted in a three-year rotational system, alternating with cassava and a year of diverse crops including maize, peanuts, cotton, and beans. At the end of this three-year cycle the land is left fallow, sometimes for seven years. It is estimated that at one time nearly 70 percent of people participated in agriculture and ten percent each working as crafts people and traders within the towns. Yorubaland is characterized by numerous densely populated urban centers with surrounding fields for farming. The centralization of wealth within cities allowed for the development of a complex market economy which encouraged extensive patronage of the arts.
One of the features that make the Yoruba unique is their tendency to form into large city groups instead of small village groups. Most of the large cities of Nigeria and Benin are inhabited almost solely by Yoruba.
Information and images kindly provided by Africa guide


  1. What kind of climate and landscape do the Yoruba live in?
  2. How did the Yorubas adapt to their environment in the past? Think about these aspects: activities, transport, houses, food, and clothes.
  3. How has their traditional way of life changed ?
  4. Do you think that the family important is to the Yorubas?
  5. What does diaspora mean ?
  6. Who are theYoruba’ gods? What do they represent?
  7. How do you think about the Yoruba art ?
  8. How do the Yorubas live today?
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