This theme looks at the collection's objects from the Yoruba culture of West Africa. It includes background pages on the Yoruba people and their culture.
About the Yoruba
The Yoruba are a West African people, predominantly originating from South-West Nigeria. There is also a significant population in Togo and the Republic of Benin, as well as throughout the rest of Africa and beyond. There are thought to be around 15 to 20 million Yoruba people worldwide, although an exact figure is not available.
Modern day Yoruba communities vary in size and location across the world, with many living in towns and villages or on farmland. There are also Yoruba populations in vast urban areas, including the large Nigerian city of Lagos.
The name “Yoruba” is of more recent origin than the concept. It was originally a Chadic name for the people of the Oyo empire, but was given a wider use by missionaries in the 1840s. Oyo – located in modern-day South-Western Nigeria – was the pre-eminent city-state of the Yoruba between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Some Yoruba communities are city-states, encompassing just one urban area with a rural hinterland. However, most consist of several towns and many villages.
Archaeological work on Yoruba settlements has shown that the oldest cities may date back to around A.D. 800. This includes Ife, a city in South-West Nigeria of huge importance to the Yoruba.
Some traditional Yoruban religious beliefs are still practiced today, despite the introduction of strong Christian and Muslim influences.
Many forms of art that have been practiced for centuries are still significant in Yoruban society today. This includes wood carving, cloth-dyeing, weaving, pottery making, basketry, leather working, and bead working.
Born in 1943 in Nigeria, Emmanuel Jegede is a Yoruban painter, sculptor, and poet. Emmanuel studied in Lagos at Yaba College of Technology, before moving to England in 1963.
An interview with Emmanuel at the University of Exeter, 2 July 2001.
A selection of Emmanuel Jegede's Poetry.
Links to some other sites where you can discover more about Yoruba history and culture.
Some craft activities inspired by Yoruba art for you to try at home