The Yoruba

The Yoruba are a diverse set of various tribes that share a common language and culture, who make up about a fifth of Nigeria’s population. The Yoruba are religiously diverse as well, with most following either Christianity or Islam, though traditional indigenous religions are observed by many. The city of Ile-Ife remains an important site for Yoruba cosmology, and is believed to the point of origin for human life. The name Yoruba is a Hausa term used for Yoruba-speaking people  who lived in the north, and then was used by missionaries to describe the southern peoples who spoke the same language then was eventually assumed by the Yoruba themselves.

Historically, Yorubaland was comprised of a regional network of small urban polities in what is today southwestern Nigeria and eastern Benin. A series of wars rocked Yorubaland in the 19th century, triggered by the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the collapse of the Oyo Empire, which saw the disintegration of a number of formerly powerful Yoruba capitals.


April Gordon, Nigeria’s Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2003).

See also: Nigeria