The Yoruba people are an ethnic group in West Africa, with a vast majority inhabiting the South-West part of Nigeria, where they constitute approximately 21% of the country’s population, or 35 million in 2012; rendering them one of the largest ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. A majority of the Yoruba people are native speakers of the Yoruba Language. It is held that the Yoruba ethnic group originated from the population of the older kingdom of Ile-Ife. The settlement at Ife appears to have entered an era of revival, with the appearance of urban structures by the 12th century. This seems to be the formative period of the Yoruba people, as reflected in oral tradition. Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba identifies Odùduwà as the Progenitor of the Yoruba and the reigning ancestor of their crowned kings.
Upon the disappearance of Odùduwà, there was a dispersal of his children from Ife to found other kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms contributed in the subsequent urbanisation and consolidation of Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms.
Occupational guilds, social clubs, secret or initiatory societies and religious units, commonly known as Egbe in Yoruba, included the Parakoyi (or league of traders) and Egbe Ode (hunter's guild). These maintain an important role in commerce, social control, and vocational education in Yoruba polities. Monarchies constitute the major form of government, though social organisation is equally prevalent in some areas of Yoruba land.
Yoruba culture consists of folk or cultural philosophy, religion and folktales. They are embodied in Ifa-Ife Divination, known as the tripartite Book of Enlightenment in Yoruba land and in the Diaspora.
Among the Yoruba are Christians and Muslims, though they also adhere to the principles pertaining to the traditional faith they inherited from their ancestors. Yoruba customary religious practices include the Eyo and Osun Oshogbo festivals.
Perhaps the most common Yoruba traditional religious concept has been the concept of Orisha. An Orisha, (also spelled Orisa or Orixa) is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Gods in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system.
Orisa'nla (The great divinity) also known as Obatala, was the arch-divinity chosen by Olodumare, the Supreme, to create solid land out of the primordial water that constituted the earth; and populated the land with human beings. Obatala descended from heaven on a chain, carrying a small snail shell full of earth, palm kernels and a five-toed chicken. He was to empty the content of the snail shell on the water, after placing some pieces of iron on it; and then to place the chicken on the earth.
Yoruba philosophy is a witness of two eras. The first era is an epoch-making history in cosmogony and cosmology, which constitutes the foundation of oral philosophy, in a period when Oduduwa was the philosopher, the head, the Bringer of Light, and a prominent diviner.
The second epoch is that of metaphysical philosophy; which commenced in the 19th century, along the lines of the academic prowess of Dr. Bishop Ajayi Crowther, the first African Anglican Bishop.
Though religion is of prime importance in Yoruba culture, philosophy is also of paramount consideration. Philosophy is viewed as the thought of man and the reasoning of the mind that actually leads the faculty (ori), to the creation and practice of religion. Thus philosophy is antecedent to religion.
Traditionally, kingship and chieftainship were not determined by lineage heritage of the eldest son, as in most monarchic systems of government. An electoral college of lineage is usually charged with selecting a member of one of the royal families from any given realm; and the selection is then confirmed by an Ifá oracular request.
Yams are said to be one of the important food for the Yoruba. Plantain, corn, and beans are also main choices.
Some common Yoruba foods are iyan (pounded yam), Amala, eba, semo, fufu, Moin moin (bean cake) and akra. Soups include egusi, ewedu, okra etc.
Yoruba people are well known for their attire. Clothing materials are traditionally derived from processed cotton by traditional weavers.
The Yoruba have a very wide range of clothing. The basic being the Aṣo-Oke, which has a variety of forms and patterns.