Who are the Yorubas?

There are two major schools of thoughts regarding the origin of the Yoruba people. The widely accepted school of thought states that the Yorubas are descendants of Oduduwa, who migrated from the East, established a kingdom at Ile-Ife (also know as Ife) and thus became the first Oba.

The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethno-linguistic or ethnic groups in West Africa. The Yorubas constitute about 40 million individuals throughout West Africa and are found predominantly in Nigeria. They are arguably the most sophisticated people-group on the continent of Africa. Historical records of advanced political, economic and social structures by the Yoruba people, as a sovereign entity, predates the colonial era (i.e. the periods between the 16th and mid 20th century).

Yorubas believe that egalitarianism and justice is the bedrock of an enduring and peaceful society as well as the underpinnings of sustainable democracy. The African people, who lived in the lower western Niger area, at least by the 4th century BC, were not known as Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. Both archaeology and traditional Yoruba oral historians confirm the existence of people in this region for several millennia.

Yoruba religion and mythology is a major influence in West Africa, chiefly in Nigeria and it has given origin to several new world religions such as Santeria in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Candomble in Brazil. Itan is the term for the sum of all Yoruba myths, songs, histories and cultural components. Yoruba deities include “Oya”(wind /storm), “Ifa” (divination of fate), “ Eleda”(Destiny), “Ibeji” (twin) “Osayin” (Medicine and healing), “Osun” (goddess of fertility, protection of children and mothers) and “ Sango” (god of thunder).

Human beings and other creatures are also assumed to have their own individual deity of destiny called “ori”, who is venerated through a sculpture symbolically decorated with cowry shells. Today many Yorubas are active Christians and Muslims, but some retained many of the moral and cultural concepts of Aborisha.