Yoruba

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.