(redirected from Yoruba culture)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


(yō`ro͞obä), people of SW Nigeria and Benin, numbering about 20 million. Today many of the large cities in Nigeria (including LagosLagos
, city (1991 est. pop. 1,274,000), SW Nigeria, on the Gulf of Guinea. It comprises the island of Lagos and three former neighboring islands (now connected by landfill to the mainland or Lagos).
..... Click the link for more information.
, IbadanIbadan
, city (1991 est. pop. 1,263,000), SW Nigeria. The second largest city in Nigeria, it is a major commercial center. Manufactures include metal products, furniture, soap, and handicrafts.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and AbeokutaAbeokuta
, city (1991 est. pop. 377,000), SW Nigeria. It is the trade center for an agricultural region producing rice, yams, cassava, cotton, fruit, vegetables, and palm products. Manufactures of the city include beer, cement, dyed textiles, and canned foods.
..... Click the link for more information.
) are in Yorubaland. The old Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was traditionally one of the largest states of W Africa, but after the mid-1700s its power slowly waned. At the beginning of the 19th cent., Fulani invasions, slave raids from Dahomey, and the growing contact with Europeans divided the Yoruba into a number of small states. In the second half of the 19th cent. the Yoruba gradually fell under British control, and they were under direct British administration from 1893 until 1960. Yoruba religion includes a variety of gods. Vestiges of Yoruba culture are also found in Brazil and Cuba, where Yoruba were imported as slaves.


See G. J. A. Ojo, Yoruba Culture (1967); E. Krapf-Askari, Yoruba Towns and Cities (1969); R. S. Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba (1969); H. Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a people living in western and southwestern Nigeria (10 to 12 million persons in 1972, according to rough estimates); Dahomey (more than 200, 000 persons), where they are called the Nago or Anago; and Togo, where a small number lives.

The ethnic Yoruba groups include the 6yo, Ife, Ijesha, and Egba. They all consider themselves a single people and have a single culture. They speak the Yoruba language, which has a number of dialects. The Yoruba language has its own literature; newspapers are published in the language, and it is used for instruction in the schools. Islam and Christianity coexist among the Yoruba, along with a polytheism with a well-developed pantheon of gods. States existed among the Yoruba long before the arrival of Europeans in West Africa (in the 15th century). The Yoruba were the creators of remarkable bronze and terra-cotta sculptures that flourished from the 12th to the 14th century and that were possibly associated with the more ancient Nok culture (end of the first millennium b.c.). The Yoruba art of bronze-casting was taken up by the Benin peoples. The chief occupation of the Yoruba is farming (yams, cacao). Among the Yoruba, developing capitalist relations are closely intertwined with strong survivals of earlier social structures.


Ismagilova, R. N. Narody Nigerii. Moscow, 1963.
Forde, D. The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of Southwestern Nigeria. London, 1951.
Johnson, S. The History of the Yorubas: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate. London, 1921.




the language of the Yoruba people. Yoruba is related to the Kwa subgroup of the Guinean language group. Yoruba is spoken mainly in the western and southwestern regions of Nigeria, in some areas of Dahomey, and in the eastern regions of Togo. The number of Yoruba speakers is approximately 10 to 12 million (1972, estimate). Yoruba is divided into a number of dialects. It has seven pure and seven nasal vowels. Elision and vowel harmony are common. Monosyllabic and dissyllabic words predominate. High, low, and mid tones are clearly distinguished, although there are also sliding tones (rising and falling). The tones have semantic significance (for example, fo, “to break”; fo, “to wash”; fo, “to speak”). Yoruba is an isolating language. Grammatical gender and nominal declensions are absent. The verb is not marked for person, number, and voice. Syntactic relations are expressed by rigid word order and auxiliary words. The Yoruba writing system is based on the Roman alphabet.


Iakovleva, V. K. Iazyk ioruba. Moscow, 1963.
Gaye, J. A., and W. S. Beecroft. Yoruba Grammar, 3rd ed. London, 1951.
Abraham, R. C. Dictionary of Modern Yoruba. London 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



The Yoruba, considered the most urbane group in Nigeria, with the longest history of Westernization, Christianity, and education, live in southwestern Nigeria and the adjacent sections of Dahomey. They include the patrician families of Lagos and have an ancient tradition of kingship. Yoruba paganism is characterized by a variety of theological elements, such as a supreme being, subordinate deities, ancestors, sacred kings, all sorts of local spirits, and an elaborate system of divination.

According to Yoruba thought, the human being possesses multiple souls, each representing a significant dimension of social experience. Among these is the life-breath, given by Olorun at birth, containing one’s personal vitality and strength. The life-breath is nourished by food and may be trapped by witches when it leaves the body in sleep during dreams, causing death.

Peter McKenzie’s study of dreams and visions among the Yoruba in the middle of the nineteenth century reports the accounts of dreams told by the Yoruba to the catechists of Christian missions. These dreams can be classified according to four significant themes. First of all is the traditional Yoruba use of dreams in dealing with the contingencies attributed to the gods. The second of them concerns dreams associated with crises of religious identity. Third is a series of explicit accounts of conversion in which dreams are featured. The fourth theme deals with visions of sick and dying early Christian converts.

According to McKenzie’s study, traditional Yoruba recollections of dreams contain the themes of neglect of social obligations, estrangement from the gods, and the threatening isolation of sickness, captivity, or a journey. Dreams are used by the Yoruba to achieve both social and personal integration. They can also be adapted to the needs of deep religious change, generally experienced as a crisis of identity or as spiritual conversion.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Is tension a better conceptualization of pitch variation than height within Yoruba culture? Perhaps.
Yoruba culture, polygamous and cruelly sacrificial in the case of Death and the King's Horseman, should not be discarded as old time superstition.
I was not really "introduced" to Yoruba culture; I was born into it, and I grew up in it.
To reverse this axiological trend, working on the strength of Yoruba culture which measured a mother's worth to the community in terms of the number of surviving children a woman has, the nutritionist mobilized the concept of positive deviance to educate rural women that if they wanted to achieve the societal objective of having children who do not die in infancy, they ought to feed them with eggs and meat since the children and not the adult men who really need the large portions of meat for survival and thriving.
He inscribes his study within a mythopoeic paradigm of which Yoruba culture constitutes the main component and makes the trope of liminality the main yardstick to account for the common thread that strings their works together regardless of their specificities.
"These values reflect the `naturalness' of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination." In the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, Charlton notes, Obatala created humans out of clay.
His evidence is limited to references and allusions rather than analyses: to the famous cosmology of the Dogon, analysed by Dieterlen and Griaule, or the familiar facial scarifications of Yoruba culture. He crucially fails to reveal coherent systems of signification at work in these areas, which might justify his claim that they constitute the equivalent of written languages in their own right.
As one talks with Soyinka about his art - an art indelibly linked to his ideas of nationhood in this age of Nigerian uncertainty, and to the rich and complex mythology of Yoruba culture - his countenance betrays neither lament nor brooding.
The Yoruba culture goes back to Ile Ife, which is said to be the Garden of Eden for the Yoruba people.
Grounded in his reinterpretation of Yoruba culture, the book provides the foundation of his ritual dramatic theory, within which rituals function on both the literal and metaphorical levels.
Another root of the freedom of Lagos and the rest of Yoruba land from the wars that have been raging in Nigeria is the Yoruba culture of hospitality to strangers and foreigners.
Yoruba culture, the presence of traditional religion within Christianity