Nigerian horse tail meaning

Nigerian horse tail meaning DEFAULT


Type of hand fan, often ceremonial, notably made of feathers or animal tail hairs

Goat-hide and horse-hair Hausafly-whisk, from near Maradi, Niger, early 1960s, 28 inches (71 cm)

A fly-whisk (or fly-swish)[1] is a tool that is used to swat flies. A similar gadget is used as a hand fan in hot tropical climates, sometimes as part of regalia, and is called a chowrie, chāmara, or prakirnaka in South Asia and Tibet.[2][3]

In Indonesian art, a fly-whisk is one of the items that is associated with Shiva. A fly-whisk is frequently seen as an attribute of Hindu, Jain, Daoist and Buddhist deities.[4][5] The fly-whisk is evident in some configurations of the Ashtamangala, employed in some traditions of murtipuja, particularly Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It is also used as an accessory in the ritual aspects of folk performance traditions, especially folk-theater forms like Pala Gaan, where it can double as a prop.

Fly-whisks are in use in parts of the contemporary Middle East, such as Egypt, by some classes of society, e.g., outdoor merchants and shop keepers, especially in summer when flies become bothersome. Those have a wooden handle and plant fibers attached to them. The more expensive ones are made from horse hair. In the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, it is made from the tail-hairs of the yak.

Fly-whisks appear frequently in the traditional regales of monarchs and nobility in many parts of the African continent. Fly whisks, called "ìrùkẹ̀rẹ̀" in Yoruba, were used by Yoruba monarchs and chiefs as a symbol of power and respect.[6] This use has sometimes carried on into modern contexts: Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta carried a fly-whisk, a mark of authority in Maasai society,[7] as did Malawian leader Hastings Banda, while South African jazz musician Jabu Khanyile also used a Maasai fly-whisk as a trademark when on stage.[8]

The fly-whisk is one of the traditional symbols of Buddhist monastic hierarchy in China and Japan, along with the khakkhara, jewel scepter, and begging bowl. The fly-whisk in Buddhism represents the symbolic "sweeping" of ignorance and mental afflictions. The Daoist fly-whisk is made of the root and twine of the smilax for the handle, and the hairs are made of palm fiber. The Chinese fly-whisk is also used in many Chinese martial arts such as Shaolin Kung Fu and Wudang quan, each corresponding to their own respective religious philosophy.

A fly-whisk forms part of the royal regalia of Thailand. It consists of the tail hairs of a white elephant.[9] Fly-whisks were also used in Polynesian culture as a ceremonial mark of authority.[10]

Algeria incident[edit]

In 1827, the last Ottoman ruler of Algeria, Hussein Dey, struck the French consul, Pierre Deval in the face with a fly-whisk during a dispute over unpaid French debts to Algeria. That insult became a pretext for the French invasion of Algeria in 1830.[11]


  • Chamara (fly-whisk) as regalia in Hindu-Buddhist iconography. 8th century Borobudur bas-relief.

  • Chamara used in Hindu puja (prayer rituals)

  • Polynesian chasse-mouches

See also[edit]


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fly whisks.
  1. ^"fly, n.1", OED Online, Oxford University Press, retrieved 2020-04-08
  2. ^Gopal, Madan (1990). Gautam, K. S. (ed.). India Through the Ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 81.
  3. ^Robert Beer (2003). The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. Serindia Publications. p. 177. ISBN .;
    चामर, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany
  4. ^Shiva and ParvatiArchived 2007-09-12 at the Wayback Machine, Rijksmuseum, accessed 14 November 2006
  5. ^Titze, Kurt (1998), Jainism: A Pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-violence, ISBN 
  6. ^"Greeting the King | Oba Saheed Ademola Elegushi".
  7. ^Dress codes and prestige staffs: constructing political authority with staffs in TanzaniaArchived 2006-12-01 at the Wayback Machine, Fadhili Mshana, Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World, 2002
  8. ^Jabu KhanyileArchived 2005-03-14 at the Wayback Machine, Contemporary African Music and Arts Archive, accessed 13 November 2006
  9. ^Thai Royal RegaliaArchived 2006-07-04 at the Wayback Machine, Thailand Government Public Relations Department, accessed 15 November 2006
  10. ^Fly Whisk Handle, Metropolitan Museum of Art, accessed 14 November 2006
  11. ^"History of Algeria". HistoryWorld. Archived from the original on 2005-09-02. Retrieved 2007-12-19.

A Yoruba festival called ‘Obaluwaye festival’ was held in some parts of Brazil earlier in the year and there were images of horsetail-fly-whisk, among other traditional accessories, used by the worshippers. Horsetail-fly-whisk is known as ‘Irukere’ by the Yoruba people. ‘Iru’ literally means tail in the Yoruba language. The Yoruba people are found in the Southwestern parts of Nigeria and they are known to have a rich cultural heritage with the irukere being a prominent feature.

Origin of irukere

One of the famous Yoruba deity known as Orunmila (deity of wisdom) is said to use the irukere. He uses the irukere when traveling to an occasion. It was a tool of power he used to save people. Irukere was also used in his shrine. It has since been used by Yoruba kings and chiefs as a traditional accessory.


Irukere fly whisk is made of animal hair skin, especially horsetail. The strands of hair, which may be white or black, has a stick within and are fastened by a leather handle or in some cases rubber. An irukere measures approximately 20 – 21’’ long to tip. It is decorated with beads of different colors (blue, red, green, burgundy, etc.)

Importance of Irukere


Irukere is common among Yoruba people such as their kings/chiefs, priests, and traditional dancers. Top on the list is the Yoruba monarchs who use it as a tool for blessing the people. When a prayer is being said by the king, the irukere is being whisked to say ‘it is done.’ It is also part of the clothing accessories of the Yoruba kings when they are out for occasions. The Yoruba people have a way of praising their king with the line ‘’k’ade o pe lori, ki bata pe l’ese, ki irukere pe lowo/di okin.’’ This is a way of saying the king should live long while giving his accessories some significances.

Nigerian Traditional Accessory: Irukere 1

Yoruba priests, also known as ‘Ifa diviners,’ make use of the irukere just like Orunmila. Every initiate of ifa (oracle) is happy to have an irukere standing in their ifa shrine to honor Orunmila. It is used by the priests to say opening prayers, chant, and give blessings. It is used during a sacrifice or consultations. Irukere is a prominent feature of an ifa priest.

Nigerian Traditional Accessory: Irukere 2

The Yoruba traditional dancers are not left out in the use of this horsetail whisk. It is used by the cultural dancers in rhythmic movement. Along with their beads and traditional attires, the traditional horsetail tool makes the dancers a joy to watch for their swagger.

According to the traditional belief of the Yoruba people, irukere is not just a traditional tool, but a tool of power. It is an accessory for the elders, kings, chiefs, priests or those of special importance. The Yoruba people have a rich culture and tradition. This is just one of the tools used by the people in their ceremonies.

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Yoruba people

Ethnic group of West Africa

The Yoruba Cultural Group Children of Fasta International School - Photo Session.jpg

A Yoruba children's cultural troupe from the 1990s

c. 37,743,200[1][a]
 Oduduwa flag.jpgYorubaland> 30,000,000
 United States196,000[7]
 Ivory Coast124,000[8]
 United Kingdom102,000[9]
 Burkina Faso74,000[10]
 Equatorial Guinea64,000[12]
 Sierra Leone6,400[18]
Yoruba and Yoruboid languages
Others: English or French
Portuguese, Spanish
Main: Aja, Aku, Ebira, Ewe, Fon, Ga, Igala, Itsekiri, Mahi, Nagos, Nupe, Ogu, Tabom
Edoid: Afemai, Bini, Esan, Etsako, Isoko, Owan, Urhobo[24][25]
Gur peoples: Bariba, Dagomba, Gurma, Kabiye, Somba and other adjacent groups[26][27][28]
Others: African Americans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Caribbean people.[29][30][31]

The Yorubapeople (Yoruba: Ọmọ Káàárọ̀-oòjíire, Ọmọ Oòduà[32][33][34]) are a native West Africanethnic group that inhabit western Africa, found mainly in the parts of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo that constitute Yorubaland. The Yoruba constitute around 38 million people in Africa, a few hundred thousand outside of its continental borders, and bear some further representation among members of the African diaspora. The vast majority of the Yoruba population is today within the country of Nigeria, where the Yoruba make up 15.5% of the country's population by contemporary estimations,[35] making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, by number. Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which is, also, the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native speakers.[36]

In Africa, the Yoruba people share borders with the YoruboidItsekiri to the south-east in the North West Niger delta (who choose to maintain a distinct cultural identity), Bariba to the north in Benin and Nigeria, the Nupe also 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 related Igala people found in the northeast, on the left bank of the Niger River. To the southwest are the Gbe speaking Mahi, Gun, Fon and Ewe who border Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo, and to the northwest are the Kabye, Tem, Lamba and Ntcham people of Benin and Togo. Significant Yoruba populations in other West African countries can also be found in Ghana,[37][38][39]Benin,[37]Ivory Coast,[40] and Sierra Leone.[41]

Outside Africa, the Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; the first being that of the Yorubas dispersed mainly to the western hemisphere between the 16th to 19th centuries, notably to Cuba and Brazil, and the second consisting of a wave of relatively recent migrants, the majority of whom began to migrate to the United Kingdom and the United States following major economic and political changes of the 1960s to 1980s in Africa.[42]


As an ethnicdescription, the word "Yoruba" has roots in a term borrowed by Europeans in the earlier part of the 19th century and incorporated into usage in reference to the Oyo Empire of the time.[43][44] In his book, Hugh Clapperton began to subject the word to early changes in its evolution from the existing Hausaexonym Yaraba, to "Yourriba" as was his customary way of addressing the King of Oyo.[45] Further evolution of the ethnic description to the larger ethnolinguistic group of which Oyo is a part is the subsequent work of 19th century missionaries who categorized all members of the ethnolinguistic group by "Yoruba" and helped incorporate it into the language of the Oyo people as their own self-definition.[43] Competing terms such as Nago, Lucumi, and Aku, used in identifying Oyo's ethnolinguistic family, have not reached the same level of popular usage as the term "Yoruba" though widely used in areas where ethnic sub-populations themselves can be found.[43]

In comparison, the term of intraethnolinguistic origin which the Yoruba people have called themselves, is "Ọmọ Káàárọ̀-oòjíire", literally meaning, "The People who ask ‘Good morning, did you wake up well?" This is in reference to the culture of greetings identifiable within the Yoruba culture.[46] Through parts of coastal West Africa, where Yorubas have been found, they have carried their culture of lauding one another with greetings of different forms, applicable in different situations, along with them. Another term used is, "Ọmọ Oòduà", meaning "The Children of Oduduwa", referencing the semi-legendary king who is believed to be the founder and ancestor of the modern Yoruba people.[47]


Main article: History of the Yoruba people

Further information: Ifẹ

See also: Yoruba religion

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 kingdom already existed in Ile-Ife, one of the earliest in Africa.[48] It is said to be Ile-gbo (capital of the realm of humanity, based on the oldest pre-dynastic traditions of its being associated with Oba Tala, Oro-gbo (Sango) and Otete (Oduduwa).[49]

The historical Yoruba develop in ṣitu, out of earlier Mesolithic Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BCE.[50]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 and Northern, Eastern Nigeria as far back as the 11th century.[51]

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.[52] In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses, with high walls and gates.[53] 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.[50] For a long time also, Ibadan, one of the major Yoruba cities and founded in the 1800s, 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.[54]

Archaeologically, the settlement of Ile-Ife showed features of urbanism in the 12th–14th century era.[53] 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.[55] 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,[56][57] is commonly described as a "golden age" of Ile-Ife. The oba or ruler of Ile-Ife is referred to as the Ooni of Ife.[58][59]

Oyo, Ile-Ife and Lagos[edit]

Ife continues to be seen as the "Spiritual Homeland" of the Yoruba. The city was surpassed by the Oyo Empire[61] as the dominant Yoruba military and political power in the 11th century.[62]

The Oyo Empire under its oba, known as the Alaafin of Oyo, was active in the African slave trade during the 18th century. The Yoruba often demanded slaves as a form of tribute of subject populations,[63] 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 slave trade.[64][65]

Most of the city states[66] were controlled by Obas (or royal sovereigns with various individual titles) and councils made up of Oloye, 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 the Ijebu city-states,[66] the senatorial councils held more influence and the power of the ruler or Ọba, referred to as the Awujale of Ijebu land, was more limited.[59]

In more recent decades, Lagos has risen to be the most prominent city of the Yoruba people and Yoruba cultural and economic influence. Noteworthy among the developments of Lagos were uniquely styled architecture introduced by returning Yoruba communities from Brazil and Cuba known as Amaros/Agudas.[67]

Yoruba settlements are often described as primarily one or more of the main social groupings called "generations":[68]

  • The "first generation" includes towns and cities[66] known as original capitals of founding Yoruba kingdoms or states.
  • The "second generation" consists of settlements created by conquest.[66]
  • The "third generation" consists of villages and municipalities that emerged following the internecine wars of the 19th century.


Main article: Yoruba language



The Yoruba culture was originally an oral tradition, and the majority of Yoruba people are native speakers of the Yoruba language. The number of speakers is roughly estimated at about 30 million in 2010.[74] Yoruba is classified within the Edekiri languages, and together with the isolate Igala, form the Yoruboid group of languages within what we now have as West Africa. 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.

The Yoruboid languages are assumed to have developed out of an undifferentiated Volta-Niger group by the 1st millennium BCE. There are three major dialect areas: Northwest, Central, and Southeast.[75] 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 into Northwestern Yoruba territory.[76] The area where North-West Yoruba (NWY) is spoken corresponds to the historical Oyo Empire. South-East Yoruba (SEY) was closely associated with the expansion of the Benin Empire after c. 1450.[77] 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 is the standard variety taught in schools and spoken by newsreaders on the radio. It is mostly entirely based on northwestern Yoruba dialects of the Oyos and the Egbas, and has its origins in two sources; The work of Yoruba Christian missionaries based mostly in the Egba hinterland at Abeokuta, and the Yoruba grammar compiled in the 1850s by Bishop Crowther, who himself was a Sierra Leonean Recaptive of Oyo origin. This was exemplified by the following remark by Adetugbọ (1967), as cited in Fagborun (1994): "While the orthography agreed upon by the missionaries represented to a very large degree the phonemes of the Abẹokuta dialect, the morpho-syntax reflected the Ọyọ-Ibadan dialects"[78]

Pre-colonial government of Yoruba society[edit]

Main article: Yorubaland

See also: Oyo Empire § Political Structure


Monarchies were a common form of government in Yorubaland, but they were not the only approach to government and social organization. The numerous Ijebu Kingdom city-states to the west of Oyo and the Egba people communities, found in the forests below Ọyọ's savanna region, were notable exceptions. These independent polities often elected a king 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 contemporary era.

During the internecine wars of the 19th century, the Ijebu forced 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),[79] 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."[80] He described Abẹokuta and its system of government as "the most extraordinary republic in the world."[80]


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 umbrella. In Ọyọ, the most centralized of the precolonial kingdoms, the Alaafin consulted on all political decisions with the prime minister and principal kingmaker (the Basọrun) and the rest of the council of leading nobles known as the Ọyọ Mesi.[81]

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 Ifá oracular request.[82] 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 of the Market, who is expected to represent their interests in the aristocratic council of oloyes at the palace.[83][84]


Traditional torque currency made from copper alloy was a form of collar money (mondua) used in the Yoruba country, 17th century, Brooklyn Museum 1997[85]

The monarchy of any city-state was usually limited to a number of royal lineages.[86] 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.[87]Ibadan, a city-state and proto-empire that was founded in the 1800s by a polyglot group of refugees, soldiers, and itinerant traders after the fall of Ọyọ, 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.[88]

Groups, organizations and leagues in Yorubaland[edit]

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.[89][90][91][92] 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[edit]

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 Muslims or Christians.[22] 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.[93]

Traditional Yoruba religion[edit]

Main article: Yoruba religion

Further information: Ifá and Yoruba medicine

The Yoruba religion comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practices of the Yoruba people.[94] Its homeland is in Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland. Yoruba religion is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder.[95] Yoruba religious beliefs are part of itan, the total complex of songs, histories, stories and other cultural concepts that make up the Yoruba society.[95]

One of the most common Yoruba traditional religious concepts has been the concept of Orisa. Orisa (also spelled Orisha) are various godly forms that reflect one of the various manifestations or avatars of God in the Yoruba religious system. Some widely known Orisa are Ogun, (a god of metal, war and victory), Shango or Jakuta (a god of thunder, lightning, fire and justice who manifests as a king and who always wields a double-edged axe that conveys his divine authority and power), Esu Elegbara (a trickster who serves as the sole messenger of the pantheon, and who conveys the wish of men to the gods. He understands every language spoken by humankind, and is also the guardian of the crossroads, Oríta méta in Yoruba) and Orunmila (a god of the Oracle). Eshu has two avatar forms, which are manifestations of his dual nature – positive and negative energies; Eshu Laroye, a teacher instructor and leader, and Eshu Ebita, a jester, deceitful, suggestive and cunning.[96] Orunmila, for his part, reveals the past, gives solutions to problems in the present, and influences the future through the Ifa divination system, which is practised by oracle priests 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 Ifaor divination board. Traditionally made from ivory, but also brass and wood.[97]

Olorun is one of the principal manifestations 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 two other principal forms of the supreme God are Olodumare—the supreme creator—and Olofin, who is the conduit between Òrunn (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth). Oshumare is a god that manifests in the form of a rainbow, also known as Òsùmàrè in Yoruba, while Obatala is the god of clarity and creativity.,[52][98] 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, among others. As interest in African indigenous religions grows, Orisa communities and lineages can be found in parts of Europe and Asia as well. While estimates may vary, some scholars believe that there could be more than 100 million adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.[99]


Main article: Oduduwa

Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba recounts Odùduwà to be the progenitor of the Yoruba and the reigning ancestor of their crowned kings.

He came 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 in 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.[100]

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 deified. The Edi festival celebrates this feat amongst her Yoruba descendants.[101]


See also: Yoruba religion

Ogunda Meji, one of the sixteen principals of 256 Odus(the corpus of Ifa literature) represented on a virtual Opon Ifaboard

Yoruba culture consists of cultural philosophy, religion and folktales. They are embodied in Ifa divination, and are 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 the pre-dynastic period in 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 Samuel 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 that 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.

Christianity and Islam[edit]

The Yoruba are traditionally very religious people, and are today pluralistic in their religious convictions.[102] The Yoruba are one of the more religiously diverse ethnic groups in Africa. Many Yoruba people are Muslims practicing mostly under Sunni Islam of the Maliki school of law while others are Christians under various denominations. In addition to Islam and Christianity, a large number of Yoruba people continue to practice their traditional 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 as cultural, rather than religious, events. They participate in them as a means to celebrate their people's history, and boost tourism in their local economies.[93]


The Yorubas were one of the first groups in West Africa to be introduced to Christianity on a large scale.[104] Christianity (along with western civilization) came into Yorubaland in the mid-19th century through the Europeans, whose original mission was commerce.[102][105][106][107] The first European visitors were the Portuguese, they visited the neighboring 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 people were the 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. 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 prominent member – Church Mission Society (CMS) based in England made the most significant in-roads into the hinterland regions for evangelism and became the largest of the Christian missions. 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 Southern Nigeria in 1846.[108]

Hinderer and Mann of CMS started missions in Ibadan / Ibarapa and Ijaye divisions of the present Oyo state in 1853. Baptist missionaries – Bowen and Clarke – concentrated on the northern Yoruba axis – (Ogbomoso and environs). With their success, other religious groups – the Salvation Army and the Evangelists Commission of West Africa – 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 Yorubaland was not felt until the fourth decade of the 19th century, when a Yoruba slave boy, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, became a Christian convert, linguist and minister whose knowledge in languages would become a major tool and instrument to propagate Christianity in Yorubaland and beyond.[109]


Islam came into Yorubaland around the 14th century, as a result of trade with Wangara (also Wankore) merchants,[110] a mobile caste of the Soninkes from the then Mali Empire who entered Yorubaland (Oyo) from the northwestern flank through the Bariba or Borgu corridor,[111] during the reign of Mansa Kankan Musa.[112] Due to this, Islam is traditionally known to the Yoruba as Esin Male or simply Imale i.e. religion of the Malians. The adherents of the Islamic faith are called Musulumi in Yoruba to correspond to Muslim, the Arabic word for an adherent of Islam having as the active participle of the same verb form, and means "submitter (to Allah)" or a nominal and active participle of Islam derivative of "Salaam" i.e. (Religion of) Peace. Islam was practiced in Yorubaland so early on in history, that a sizable proportion of Yoruba slaves taken to the Americas were already Muslim.[113]

The Mosque served the spiritual needs of Muslims living in Ọyọ. Progressively, Islam started to gain a foothold in Yorubaland, and Muslims started building mosques. Iwo led, its first mosque built in 1655,[114] followed by Iseyin in 1760,[114]Eko/Lagos in 1774,[114]Shaki in 1790,[114] and Osogbo in 1889. In time, Islam spread to other towns like Oyo (the first Oyo convert was Solagberu), Ibadan, Abẹokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ikirun, and Ede. All of these cities already had sizable Muslim communities before the 19th century Sokoto jihad.[115]

Traditional art and architecture[edit]

Main articles: Yoruba art and Yoruba architecture

Terracottahead representing onior King of Ife, 12th to 16th century
Early 19th century Yoruba architectureshowing their unique inner courtyard layout used as a safe space for storing livestock and a space where children could play[116]

Medieval Yoruba settlements were surrounded with massive mud walls.[117] Yoruba buildings had similar plans to the Ashanti shrines, but with verandahs around the court. The wall materials comprised puddled mud and palm oil[118] while roofing materials ranged from thatches to aluminium and corrugated iron sheets.[118] A famous Yoruba fortification, the 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 Ogun State. Sungbo's Eredo is the largest pre-colonial monument in Africa, larger than the Great Pyramid or Great Zimbabwe.[119][120]

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 its striking realism that, unlike most African art, chose to create human sculptures in vividly realistic and life sized forms. The art history of the nearby Benin empire shows that there was a cross–fertilization of ideas between the neighboring Yoruba and 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 earlier Yoruba sculptures from Ife.[121]

Intricately carved ivory braceletfrom the Yoruba people of Owo

A lot of Yoruba artwork, including staffs, court dress, and beadwork for crowns, are associated with palaces and the royal courts.[122][123][124][125] 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 spiritual roles. Yoruba art is also manifested in shrines and masking traditions.[126] The shrines dedicated to the said gods are adorned with carvings and house an 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.[127][128][129][130][131][132] Today, however, Yoruba traditional architecture has been greatly influenced by modern trends.

Gèlèdécostumes from a Yoruba-Nagocommunity 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.[133][134] 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 living things. Yemoja could not have children and consulted an Ifa oracle, and the priest 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 were perpetuated by the descendants of Efe and Gelede. This narrative is one of many stories that explains the origin of Gelede. An old theory stated that the beginning of Gelede might be associated with the change from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society among the Yoruba people.[135]

The 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 from Benin and Togo.


The Arugbaleading the procession to the Osun grove

One of the first observations of first time visitors to Yorubaland is the rich, exuberant 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 all over the world.[136] 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)[137] 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 on.[135] Others have a more spiritual connotation, such as the various days and celebrations dedicated to specific Orisha like the Ogun day (Ojó Ògún) or 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.[138] 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, the Ataoja of Osogbo, for blessings. This event is led by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba Yeye Osun (who is usually a young virgin from the royal family 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.[139][140] A similar event holds in the New World as Odunde Festival.[141][142]

Another very popular festival with spiritual connotations is the Eyo Olokun festival or Adamu 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.[137] Generally, there is no customarily defined time for the staging of 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 Thursday.

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 wear, 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 the Osun 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.[143][144][145][146]


See also: Yoruba music and Batá drum

The Batá drum– from left: Okónkolo, Iyá, Itótele

The music of the Yoruba people is perhaps best known for an extremely advanced drumming tradition,[147] especially using the dundun[148] 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 (1400s), 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.[149] Yoruba folk music became perhaps the most prominent kind of West African music in Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical styles. Yoruba music left an especially important influence on the music of Trinidad, the Lukumi religious traditions,[150]Capoeira practice in Brazil and the music of Cuba.[151]

A Yoruba slit drum (on the left) together with a traditional membrane drum (on the right)

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, Sekere and 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.[152]

Today, the word Gbedu has also come to be used to describe forms of Nigerian 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 incarnation 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.[153] Ensembles using the dundun play a type of music that is also called dundun.[148] The Ashiko (Cone shaped drums), Igbin, Gudugudu (Kettledrums in the Dùndún family), Agidigbo and 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.

Traditional Agogometal 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 and Igba.

Oriki (or praise singing), a genre of sung poetry that 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. Yoruba music is a component of the modern Nigerian popular music scene. Although traditional 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, and creativity.

Twins in Yoruba society[edit]

Main article: Ibeji

Wooden Ere Ibejifigures representing twins. Yorubas have the highest twinningrate in the world.

The Yoruba present the highest dizygotic twinning rate in the world (4.4% of all maternities).[38][154] 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 that 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.[155] 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.[156]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'.[157]

Twins are perceived as having spiritual advantages or as possessing magical powers.[158] This is different from some other cultures, which interpret twins as dangerous or unwanted.[158]


Main article: Yoruba calendar

Time is measured in "ọgán" or "ìṣẹ́jú-àáyá" (seconds), ìṣẹ́jú (minutes), wákàtí (hours), ọjọ́ (days), ọ̀sẹ̀ (weeks), oṣù (months) and ọdún (years). There are 60 (ọgọta) ìṣẹ́jú in 1 (okan) wákàtí; 24 (merinleogun) wákàtí in 1 (okan) ọjọ́; 7 (meje) ọjọ́ in 1 (okan) ọ̀sẹ̀; 4 (merin) ọ̀sẹ̀ in 1 (okan) oṣù and 52 (mejilelaadota) ọ̀sẹ̀ in 1 (okan)ọdún. There are 12 (mejila) oṣù in 1 ọdún.[159]

Months in Yoruba calendar:Months in Gregorian calendar:[160]
Owérè (Owéwè)September
Ọwàrà (Owawa)October

The Yoruba week consists of four days. 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)

The Yoruba calendar (Kojoda) year starts from 3 to 2 June of the following year.[161] According to this calendar, the Gregorian year 2021 is the 10,063th year of Yoruba culture, which starts with the creation of Ìfẹ̀ in 8042 B.C.[162] 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 calendarDays 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 choices.[164]

Some common Yoruba foods are iyan (pounded yam), amala, eba, semo, fufu, moin moin (bean cake) and akara.[135]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 (ponmo 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 few.[164]


The Yoruba take immense pride in their attire, for which they are well known.[171] Clothing materials traditionally come from processed cotton by traditional weavers.[172] They also 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,[173][174] the most basic being the Aṣo-Oke, which is a hand loomed cloth of different patterns and colors sewn into various styles.[175] 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 and worn.
  • 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).

Clothing in 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).[178][179]

Finished Adireclothing material

They also have various types of Sòkòtò or native trousers that are sewn alongside the above-mentioned dresses. Some of these are Kèmbè (Three-Quarter baggy pants), Gbáanu, Sóóró (Long slim / streamlined pants), Káamu and 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 that 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 flaps).

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 underwear (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.

Yoruba metal bracelets and jewellery of old. Collection of The Afro-Brazilianmuseum of Salvador, Bahia

There are many types of beads (Ìlèkè), hand laces, necklaces (Egba orùn), anklets (Egba esè) and bangles (Egba owó) that are used in Yorubaland. These are used by both males and females, and are put on for bodily adornment. Chiefs, priests, kings or people of royal descent, especially use some of these beads as a signifier of rank. 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 priestesses as a symbol of their authority or Ashe.[180] As most men go about with their hair lowly cut or neatly shaven, the reverse is the case for 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.[181][182] 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 is near extinct today.[183]

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 fulfil 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.[184]



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, Tchaourou Subprefecture including Tchaourou; Zou Province, Ouihni and Zogbodome Subprefecture; Donga Province, Bassila Subprefecture and Alibori, Kandi Subprefecture.[192]


The chief Yoruba cities or towns in Benin are: Porto-Novo (Ajase), Ouèssè (Wese), Ketu, Savé (Tchabe), Tchaourou (Shaworo), Bantè-Akpassi, Bassila, Ouinhi, Adjarra, Adja-Ouèrè (Aja Were), Sakété (Itakete), Ifangni (Ifonyi), Pobè, Dassa (Idasha), Glazoue (Gbomina), Ipinle, Aledjo-Koura, Aworo etc.[193]

West Africa (other)[edit]

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 retail at major markets.[194][195] Otherwise known as "Anago traders", they dominate certain sectors of the retail economy.


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, the Akoko parts of Edo, and Aniocha North LGA in Delta.[196]


The chief Yoruba cities or towns in Nigeria are: Abẹokuta, Abigi, Ado-Ekiti, Agbaja, Ago iwoye, Ago Are, Oyo, Agunrege, Oyo, Ajase ipo, Akungba-akoko, Akurẹ, Atan-otta, Afijio, Aawe, Oyo, Ayetoro Yewa, Ayetoro gbede, Ayete, Badagry, Ede, Efon-alaaye, Egbe,Egi oyo-ippo, Ejigbo, Emure-ekiti, Epe, Erin-ile, Erin-osun, Eruwa, Esa-oke,[Esa-Odo], Esie, Fiditi, Gbaja, Igbomina, Gbongan, Ibadan, Ibokun, Idanre, Idere, Idi-iroko, Ido-ani, Ido-ekiti, Ifo, Ifon (Ondo), Ifon Osun, Igangan, Iganna, Igbeti, Igboho, Igbo-ora,[Igbara-Oke], [Igbara-Odo], [Owena], Igosun, Ijabe, 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, Ilero, Ilé-Ifẹ, Ile-oluji, Ilesa, Illah Bunu, Ilishan, Ilobu, Ilọrin, Iludun, Kwara State, Imeko, Imesi-ile, Imota, Inisa, Iperu, Ipetu-Ijesha, Ipetumodu, Ira, Iragbiji, Iree, Irolu,[Iwoye,Oyo], Isanlu, Ise-ekiti, Iseyin, Iwo, Iyara, Jebba,

December is around the corner, which means wedding season in Nigeria is almost here. In this post I will be displaying different bridal looks from different Nigerian tribes. The 5 tribes that will be featured today are Yoruba, Hausa. Igbo. Itsekiri (Niger- Delta) and Tiv. Brace yourself, because these ladies are gorgeous!!

1. The Yoruba Bride.

The Yoruba bride always makes a statement on her wedding day in her elaborate gele (head tie), which is the signature look for a Yoruba bride. The traditional Yoruba bride wears a buba (shirt), aso-eke wrapper and a beautiful gele as the icing on the cake. Also now days more and more Yoruba brides are spotted with hand fans as part of their attire.

2. The Hausa Bride

The Hausa tribe is located in the Northern part of Nigeria. Hausa brides are known for the lovely designs on their hands called laali (henna)  Traditionally it is used to cleanse the bride, but now days it is used a form of beautification.

3. The Igbo Bride

The igbo tribe is very particular about coral beads. A traditional igbo maiden is drenched in red coral beads from head to toe, and carries a horse tail in her hand. After they have been pronounced husband and wife, most brides change into the ichafu and lace as a sign of maturity.

4. The Itsekiri (Niger- Delta) bride

One of my all time favorite Nigerian bridal looks is from the Itsekiri tribe in Delta state. The Itsekiri bride sparkles in her gold accessories from head to toe. Itsekiri brides scream Royalty!!

5. The Tiv Bride.

The Tiv people are located in the middle belt and some parts of the Northern region of Nigeria. The Tiv tribe is well known for their amazing skills in dancing. they are also known for their iconic black and white material. The Tiv bride is a prime example of how less is more. her look is very simple but beautiful. Also just like the Hausa tribe, the Tivs also make use of Henna for beautification.

These are just a few of the various beautiful tribes in Nigeria. I hope I was able to inspire someone for their wedding!!!


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In Nigeria, a wedding is much more than the celebration of joining the lives of two people into one. It is when two entire families join together as one and a Nigerian wedding is an all-out affair that is full of bright colours, toe-tapping music, and ancient traditions. Because we love wedding traditions from all around the world, here is what we discovered about Nigerian weddings:

Lagos, Nigerian weddings

Lagos, Nigeria

There are more than 300 tribes in Nigeria, each with their own variations on the prominent wedding traditions, but the most well-known tribes are Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo, so we’ll focus on their unique wedding traditions here.

As with many cultures, couples observe tradition long before the wedding day arrives. When it comes to Nigerian wedding traditions, this kicks off with the Introduction Ceremony, where both families come together for perhaps the first time. They exchange gifts with one another and the bride’s family will present the potential groom with a list for what he will need to give to the family in order for them to accept an engagement.

Here are some more unique Nigerian wedding traditions…

Photograph: Tolu Oniru

Photograph: Tolu Oniru

Time to go shopping

In Igbo tribes, the bride’s family present the potential groom with a dowry list that he must fulfill in order to get their blessing to marry. The list often includes, but is not limited to, clothes, food, white goods, and huge items like a new car. Some families also require hard-to-find items like an alligator tooth.

A bride’s dowry will become more expensive if she has gone to university and holds a degree or doctorate. This has resulted in many potential marriages failing at the first hurdle as the groom was unable to afford the family’s requirements.

Women from the bride’s family will assess the items presented by the groom to ensure they exactly match the list he was given, or that he has provided monetary compensation for the items he hasn’t included. Only when the women are satisfied will the engagement be allowed to proceed.

Mother of the groom. Via @tonyoelumelu.

Mother of the groom. Via @tonyoelumelu.

Seniority matters

If you have an older sibling, you have to cross your fingers that your brother or sister doesn’t want to live the life of a bachelor indefinitely.

Nigerian wedding tradition says that men, in particular, are not allowed to be married until their older brothers are.

In Igbo families, all marriages should follow in order of seniority. Younger siblings have to postpone their weddings with the one they love until their older siblings have married, or choose to proceed without the blessing of their family.

If it is a woman who has to wait for an older sister to marry, a potential groom could simply choose to move on rather than wait.

Toughen up

In the Hausa tribe, men who wish to get married have to prove their love for their bride in the most painful way possible – by enduring 100 lashes.

The tradition dictates that is the man winces, cries, or shows in any way that he is in pain, the wedding cannot go ahead.

Image by naij

Image by naij

Twice the fun

Nigerian couples often have two weddings, with a cultural wedding followed by a religious ceremony that is often more western in nature. These ceremonies are held days and sometimes weeks apart.

While some brides opt to wear a white wedding dress for their religious ceremony, couples are increasingly returning to their cultural roots and wearing stunning, bright outfits in their tribal colours, the colours of their soon-to-be spouse, or creating a mixture of the two.

Traditional Igbo wedding attire includes a lace blouse, a bright kaftan-like skirt, matching or contrasting coral beads and head tie.

When brides wear their traditional attire, their makeup and accessories are equally as bright and bold. Couples who attempt a more western-style wedding ceremony will often ditch the white wedding gown after the ceremony and get glammed-up in their traditional dress for the reception.

Image via @yeswedding

Image via @yeswedding

No guest list headaches

When it comes to Nigerian weddings, everyone is invited, so trying to regulate the guest list is a headache Nigerian couples won’t have to endure.

Wedding hosts simply prepare for the largest number of guests possible when it comes to catering, seating, food, and bonbonniere as an intended guest list of 250 could easily double or triple as the word gets out. After all, who wants to miss out on the opportunity to celebrate?


“Aso-Ebi” translates to “Family Clothes” in the language of Yoruba and this is exactly what you will find when attending a Nigerian wedding.

The couple will decide which colours and fabrics they would like their guests to wear on their wedding day and the respective families will go all out to create outfits that meet the requirements.

This makes it easy to distinguish who belongs to the each of the couple’s families at a glance, and long-time friends who are not on the bridal party often choose to join in with the aso-ebi as well.

Image by: bellanaijaweddings

Image by: bellanaijaweddings

Paying respects

No matter how expensive or elegant your wedding outfit is, or how filthy the ground is, if you are a friend of the groom at a traditional Yoruba wedding, you will be required to lie prostrate (think planking but on solid ground) in front of the bride’s parents as a show of respect.

The lift test

It is by no means a serious part of Yoruba marriage tradition, but similar to the western tradition of carrying a bride over a threshold, a groom is expected to be able to carry his new bride to show that he has the strength to take care of her during their marriage.

It’s raining money

A long-standing Nigerian wedding tradition is to spray money on the bride. This can be done at any time, although when the newlyweds step onto the dance floor is a popular moment. Money is usually thrown by older guests.

The bridesmaids are tasked with collecting all of the thrown money.

Nigerian wedding

Image by naij


The bride’s mother traditionally caters for Nigerian weddings with the assistance of extended family and friends. Food also plays a big role throughout the wedding ceremony, with both sides of the family giving one another trays of food and other gifts to symbolise their connection to one another.

Boogie on down

Music and dance feature heavily in Nigerian weddings and many of the popular wedding songs, including Azonto, Chop My Money, Kukere and Skelewu, have their own dances a la the Macarena or the Nutbush.

When the DJ drops one of these babies, the dance floor is set to fill up with guests of all ages busting out the dance moves. Not to worry if you’re unfamiliar with any or all of them, a quick search on YouTube will give you everything you need to know so you can get amongst it.

Image by naij

Image by naij

Read related: You won’t believe this 6 million dollar Nigerian wedding.

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How to pull a horse's tail

A traditional Igbo wedding in Nigeria


  • Before a traditional Igbo wedding can take place, the fathers negotiate a symbolic price for the bride
  • The bride carries a cup of palm wine to her groom during the ceremony
  • Guests throw money once the ceremony is completed

CNN's new series i-List takes you to a different country each month. In September, we visit Nigeria focusing on changes shaping the country's economy, culture and social fabric as it celebrates 50 years of independence.

(CNN) -- iReporter Nnadozie John Igbokwe sent photos of his mother's traditional Igbo wedding ceremony.

Igbokwe, 22, who lives in Belgium, took the pictures at the wedding of his mother Tina Chenenye Ubatu to Ubatu Peter at Umuahia in Abia state in February this year.

The traditional ceremony is called Igbankwu, or wine carrying, because it involves the bride carrying a cup of palm wine to her groom.

Igbokwe said that prior to the ceremony itself the groom must visit the bride's compound with his father and ask the bride's father's permission to marry her. In this case, the bride's brother took the place of her late father.

On a second visit, when a meal is served, the two fathers must discuss a symbolic price for the bride.

Usually it takes more than one evening before the final bride's price is settled.
--Nnadozie John Igbokwe

"The bride's price is negotiated between the fathers. In most cases there is only a symbolic price to be paid for the bride, in addition to other prerequisites such as kola nuts, goats, chicken, wine," said Igbokwe.

"Usually it takes more than one evening before the final bride's price is settled, offering guests from both sides a glamorous feast."

Another evening is taken up when the settlement is paid, before the day of the ceremony itself.

Describing the wedding day itself, Igbokwe said: "The bride's father fills a cup (Iko) with palm wine and passes it on to the girl while the groom finds a place between the guests.

"It is the custom for her to look for her husband while being distracted by the invitees. Only after she has found the groom, offered the cup to him and he has sipped the wine, is the couple married traditionally.

"During this ceremony, there is also the nuptial dance where the couple dances, while guests wish the newly weds prosperity by throwing money around them or putting bills on their forehead."


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We spent the night here with him. " - Masha answered with a challenge, intently and angrily peering into the faces of the girls, trying to find there. Evidence of treason. Sorry.

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