Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, primarily living in Nigeria. Their traditions have developed and matured for thousands of years, leaving a rich cultural history in its path. While many Yoruba people have moved into urban environments like Lagos, a good portion of them still keep their old traditions. Here are 10 things that might surprise you about Yoruba culture.
They have more twins than any people in the world
Due to their genetics, the Yoruba has the highest rate of twins in the world at around 4.4% for all maternities. Some people believe that the amount of twins is due to a chemical found in the cassava plant, which is a high portion of their traditional diet. Others believe it to be due to providence. Whatever the situation is, there hasn’t been anything proven by science as to why they have so many twins.
Their homeland is pretty big
Yoruba people aren’t just based in Nigeria, you’ll also find them in Benin and even a few here and there in Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. There are over 60 million Yoruba people and they represent over 20% of Nigeria’s entire population. This makes them one of the largest ethnic groups in all of Africa.
Many still practice traditional religions
Almost 20% of the Yoruba people still practice the traditional religion of their ancestors. The Yoruba believe in three gods including Olorun (the sky god), Eshu (the divine messenger) and Ogun (the god of war). There are many more deities as well that are worshipped in different villages. Other Yoruba people primarily practice Christianity and Islam.
Marriages are often arranged
Marriages in traditional Yoruba culture are generally arranged. The man who is courting the bridge must prove that he can make a payment to the family in the form of bride wealth. The elaborate wedding ceremony includes nine days where the bride spends time at both her new husband and parent’s house. To see a traditional Yoruba marriage ceremony, check out this video.
Traditional dress isn’t worn very often
While traditional dresses are beautiful and full of color, they typically aren’t worn much. Many of the Yoruba people have adapted to a modern style of dress which is worn in most cities. However, if you go to rural areas, you’ll still see some of the people in their traditional clothing. When it is worn, it’s usually for a special event like a wedding.
Their culture is highly based around folktales and philosophy
The traditions of the Yoruba are strongly based on folktales and philosophy. It’s also highly based on cosmology and mythological creatures that live in both visible and invisible worlds. There are literally hundreds of folktales used in the Yoruba culture that are designed to help people navigate through life wisely.
They have their own traditional cuisine
Yoruba cuisine has strongly influenced the food of Nigeria, particularly in restaurants in the south of the country. Some of the more popular dishes include moin moin, akara, amala, plantains, ekuru, jollof rice and cassava.
They believe babies have natural birth names
Names are extremely important to Yoruba people, and they believe that people live their life out based on their name. Seeing as such, the Yoruba put lots of thought into coming up with a name, including having naming ceremonies (pictured above). In particular, twins are supposed to have natural birth names and the first of the two twins is often named Taiwo.
They have an interesting concept of life after death
Like many cultures, death isn’t believed to be the end of life for the Yoruba people. They believe that the current life and the afterlife are connected and that the afterlife will just be in a new setting. Another belief is that the ancestors are able to watch over their descendants after they are gone. Yoruba used to bury people alive with their monarchs, but that tradition has long since been abolished.
They have lived in Nigeria since prehistoric times
The Yoruba people have lived in Nigeria for thousands of years. There are several archaeological finds that have been found in Yorubaland that show how their culture evolved. They’ve also been the primary culture in southern Nigeria since the 11th century under many empires such as the Ife and Oyo kingdoms. Both of these kingdoms left hundreds of relics, mostly made up of brass, bronze and copper.