The Yoruba Tribe in Nigeria: Unveiling Hidden Facts & Origin of The Yoruba People

The Yorubas are one of the most populous African ethnic groupings south of the Sahara. They are, in fact, not a single group, but rather a varied mix of people united by a shared language, history, and culture. 

The Yoruba people dominate the western section of Nigeria and according to Yoruba mythology, all Yoruba people are sprung from a hero named Odua or Oduduwa. Today, more than fifty people claim kingship as Odua’s descendants.

Unlike the Hausa tribe with the popular belief about being born to rule, the Yoruba land was known as the Slave Coast for four centuries during the slave trade. Untold thousands of Yoruba’s were transported to the Americas. Their descendants kept Yoruba traditions alive. 

Want to know more about the Yoruba Tribe? Let’s dive in. 

Popular Beliefs About the Yoruba People’s Origin

According to a Yoruba creation myth, the deities (gods) resided in the sky, with only water beneath them. Olorun, the Sky God, bestowed a chain, soil in a snail shell, and a five-toed chicken on Orishala, the God of Whiteness. 

He instructed Orishala to descend and construct the earth. As Orishala approached the heaven’s gate, he noticed other deities celebrating and stopped to meet them. 

They offered him palm wine, which he drank excessively and fell asleep. His younger brother, Odua, noticed Orishala asleep and took the materials and escorted Chameleon to the verge of heaven. 

He let go of the chain, and they descended. Odua tossed the soil onto the river and set the five-toed chicken on it. The chicken started scratching the ground, spreading it in all directions. 

Odua stepped down after Chameleon had tested the earth’s firmness. Today, there is a sacred grove there.

Festivals of the Yorubas 

The Yoruba’s have numerous lively celebrations and these events provide opportunities to learn about the richness of Yoruba culture. 

On such events, traditional musicians with heavy beats and praise chants are generally present. The Yoruba are a very expressive people that celebrate big milestones with vibrant festivals.

The Yorubas organize a number of festivals as stated below;

The Osun Festival is held on the banks of the Osun River in Osun state, mainly at the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove. 

The festival honours the river goddess Osun and is usually held in the month of August (Osù gùn). This annual celebration draws thousands of visitors from around the world. 

The Osun-Osogbo Festival lasts two weeks and begins with the customary cleansing of the town known as ‘Iwopopo,’. This is followed in three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp known as Ina Olojumerindinlogun, which literally means The sixteen-eyed fire. 

Then there’s the ‘Ibroriade,’ a gathering of the crowns of the previous ruler, Ataojas of Osogbo, for blessings. 

The sitting Ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba Yeye Osun (who is usually a young maiden clad in white, who carries a sacred white calabash containing propitiation materials meant for the goddess Osun, she is also accompanied by a committee of priestesses) lead this event.

Many other festivals are observed in Yoruba territory, including the Eyo Olokun Festival or Orisha play, which is dedicated to the God of the Sea Olokun, which means Owner of the Seas.

Naming Ceremony of the Yoruba Tribe 

Yoruba people have the most twins in the world (4.4% of all maternities) and this equates to 45-50 twin sets (or 90-100 twins) for every 1,000 live births. 

Some speculate that this rate is due to a high consumption of a specific variety of yam that contains a natural phytoestrogen that may stimulate the ovaries to release an egg from each side.

Twins are incredibly important to the Yoruba, and they have oruko amuti orun wa (heavenly name). These are the names given to children based on their birth circumstances. 

The first twin born is traditionally termed Taiwo or Taye (Taiyewo or Tayewo), which means ‘the first to taste the world’ or’ slave to the second twin’. 

The one who comes after is known as Kehinde (short for Omo kehin de gba egbon, which translates as “the child who came after, gets the rights of the elder”). 

Idowu is the name given to the kid born following a set of twins; Alaba follows Idowu. Ojo, Aina, and Oke are some of the other oruko amutorunwa names.

Language of the Yorubas 

Yoruba is a member of the Congo-Kordofanian language family. Yoruba has various dialects, but all of its speakers understand each other.

The Yoruba language is tonal. The same vowel-consonant pair has different meanings depending on the pitch of the vowels (whether they are uttered with a high or low voice). 

Religion of The Yoruba Tribe

Up to 20% of Yoruba people still practice their ancestors’ traditional faiths. Traditional religion is practiced differently in each group. 

A deity (god), for example, may be male in one town and female in another. According to Yoruba traditional religion, there is one supreme deity and hundreds of orisha, or subordinate deities. A deity’s devotees are referred to as his “children.”

There are three gods who are accessible to everyone. The great god, the Creator, is Olorun (Sky God). Prayers or pouring water on kola nuts on the ground might be used to summon him. 

Some refer to Eshu as Legba, the heavenly messenger who delivers sacrifices to Olorun once they have been laid at his shrine. 

Everyone frequently prays to this deity. Ifa is the Divination God, who translates Olorun’s wishes for mankind. In times of adversity, Yoruba believers seek the help of Ifa. 

Ogun (god of war, hunting, and metalworking) is regarded as another major god. People who follow traditional beliefs promise to deliver truthful testimony in Yoruba courts by kissing a machete sacred to Ogun.

Shango (sometimes spelt Sango and Sagoe) is the thunder-creating deity. When thunder and lightning hit, the Yoruba think Shango has thrown a thunderstone to earth. 

Yoruba religious elders examine the ground after a thunderstorm for the thunderstone, which is thought to have extraordinary powers. 

The stones are kept in temples honouring Shango. Shango has four wives, one for each of Nigeria’s rivers.

Muslims (followers of Islam) and Christians make up roughly half of the Yoruba who practise other religions. Annual festivals and other traditional religious rites are still observed by nearly all Yoruba’s.

Rituals of Passage 

To make newborn’s cry, water is sprinkled on them and no one may speak until the infant cries. In addition, no one under the age of the mother shall be present at the birth. 

The baby is then escorted to the backyard and the umbilical cord is firmly wrapped in thread and then severed. 

The baby is bathed with a loofah sponge and smeared with palm oil on the placenta burial site. The infant is gripped by the feet and shaken three times to strengthen and brave it. 

A naming ceremony is held after a certain number of days. Relatives come with little sums of money. Male and female circumcisions are often performed within the first month of life.

Marriage in the Yoruba Tribe 

A man must make a deal with the girl’s father. If he is accepted, he must bring the family a payment known as a bride’s price, which must be paid in three payments. 

Wedding ceremonies commence after dusk at the bride’s home and there would be a feast, to which the groom will give yams. 

The bride is then driven to the groom’s home where she gets cleaned from foot to knee with a herbal concoction that is said to bring her numerous children. 

She divides her time between her husband’s and her parents’ compounds for the first eight days following marriage and then moves to her husband’s house on the ninth day.

Relationship According to the Yoruba Tribe 

For the Yorubas, kinship is the most essential bond. Best buddies are also highly crucial. A best friend is known as a “friend not-see-not-sleep,” which indicates that one does not sleep unless he has seen his best buddy. 

When a Yoruba approaches dying, he communicates his final desires with his best buddy.

Clubs that sprout from childhood associations are also significant. A club is formed when a group of young friends begin spending time together. 

They chose a name and appoint an older man and lady as counselors. The clubs last until adulthood and they hold monthly meetings, with members rotating as hosts.

Living Environment of the Yorubas 

Traditional Yoruba village compounds (which house clans) are built up of rectangular courtyards with a single entrance. 

Modern houses made of cement blocks with corrugated iron roofs are rapidly replacing the ancient structures. Even small Yoruba communities have adequate basic services such as electricity, running water, and paved roads.

Family Life of the Yoruba Tribe

Every Yoruba is born into a clan, where members have a common progenitor. Descent is patrilineal, which means that both sons and daughters are born into their father’s clan. 

Clan members dwell in a sprawling residential area known as a compound. It is where guys are born, married, and buried. Females remain in their birth compound until they marry, they then move in with their husbands. 

The compound is led by the eldest male or Bale A husband is in charge of resolving disputes inside his own household. If he fails, or if a debate includes members of two different households, the matter is referred to the Bale.

The immediate family within the compound consists of a man, his wives, and their children. Polygyny (having more than one wife) is practiced among the Yoruba. Each wife and her offspring form a sub-family. 

They share goods and have their own room within the husband’s house. Each mother exclusively cooks for her own children. A man is obliged to treat all of his wives equally. 

Wives, on the other hand, compete to get greater benefits for their own children. The father is strict and aloof. 

Children of co-wives play together when they are young. However, when kids get older, they frequently grow apart due to disagreements about belongings.

Attires of the Yoruba Tribe

In cities, people dress in Western attire. On major events especially in rural regions, traditional dress is still worn, which is colourful and intricate. 

Geometric designs were block printed on traditional fabrics and women  wear a rectangular piece of fabric as a head tie. 

They carry newborns and little children on their backs by wrapping another rectangular cloth over their waists. 

A third cloth can be worn as a shawl over a loose-fitting, short-sleeved top and a bigger cloth is used to make a wrap-around skirt.

Varieties of Food Peculiar to the Yoruba Tribe

Yoruba food is made up of starchy tubers, cereals, and plantains. Vegetable oils, wild and cultivated fruits and vegetables, meat, and fish supplement these. Cassava, taro, maize, beans, and plantains are staples in the family’s diet. 

Popular meals amongst the Yorubas include pounded yam (made from yam), amala (made from yam or unripe plantain), eba (made from cassava), moi moi (from beans), akara (from beans), rice, and yams. Among the most popular soups are egusi, efo riro, and ila-alasepo.

Education in the Yoruba Tribe 

Nigeria has placed a high value on education since its independence in 1960. In southern Nigeria, where the Yoruba’s live, universal elementary education has become the standard. 

Secondary school (high school) education grew more common as well. Nigeria’s first university was established in a Yoruba city, which was formerly known as University College but is now known as the University of Ibadan.

Cultural Heritage of the Yoruba Tribe

Praise poems, tongue twisters, hundreds of prose narratives and riddles, and thousands of proverbs are all part of the Yoruba oral culture.

Yoruba music includes lullabies, religious songs, war songs, and work songs, as well as songs of mocking and praise. These are typically based on a “call and response” pattern between a leader and a chorus. Drums, iron gongs, cymbals, rattles, and hand clapping give rhythm. 

Long brass trumpets, ivory trumpets, whistles, stringed instruments, and metallophones are among the other instruments. The “talking drum” is perhaps the most intriguing musical instrument, with an hourglass form and laces that can be pushed to tighten the goatskin head, changing the pitch of the drum.

Employment Opportunities 

Around 75% of Yoruba males are farmers, growing food crops for their families. Farming is considered a man’s occupation. 

Men are the only ones who clear or hoe fields, while the wives assist their husbands in planting yams as well as harvesting corn, beans and cotton. 

They also assist at the market, where they sell farm produce. Some Yoruba’s have extensive cocoa estates that are labor-intensive.

The Yoruba people enjoy trading as large markets with thousands of sellers are prevalent. Women are the only ones who can trade in foodstuffs and cloth while men are in charge of meat sales and produce purchases.

The younger, more educated generation is abandoning farming in favour of white-collar work.

Recreational Activities 

Rituals, dancing, and music production are examples of traditional entertainment. Watching television, going to the movies and going to discos are all modern kinds of amusement. 

The majority of households own a television set. The more pious houses forbid family members, particularly women, from going to the movies. 

Ayo, a board game, is well-liked by people of all ages. It is a mancala game, which is popular in West Africa and is played on a board with two rows of indentations or wells filled with little seeds or stones.

Crafts and Hobbies of the Yoruba Tribe

Weaving, embroidery, pottery making, woodcarving, leather and bead work, and metalworking are examples of crafts.

Both men and women weave on various sorts of looms. Cloth is made from wild silk and cotton cultivated nearby.

Men also work as tailors and dressmakers and do embroidery, particularly on men’s gowns and caps. Men also make floor mats and mat storage bags.

The potters are women and aside from palm oil lamps, they manufacture approximately twenty different types of pots and plates for cooking, dining, and transporting and storing liquids.

Men sculpt masks and figurines, as well as mortars, pestles, and bowls, from wood. Some Yoruba woodcarvers work in bone, ivory, and stone as well. Blacksmiths utilise iron and brass to produce both functional and ornamental products.


The Yoruba’s are very nice and accommodating people with a heart of gold. They have a very diverse culture which they uphold tightly. They are likewise regarded as the most respectful tribe in Nigeria.

When next you visit Nigeria, try as much as possible to explore the Yoruba land and you would never regret doing such.

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