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Inside Yoruba: Nigerian Culture in Focus


By Branton Matondo

For decades, if not centuries, the Yoruba culture has defined the core values and norms of the Nigerian cultural spectrum.

Being the third major ethnic group in Nigeria, Yoruba ethoshave worked wonders of cultural renaissance. Though a poultry number of people seem to possess knowledge of the history behind the kingdom, Ile-lfe is the starting point. Ile-lfe, also known as lfelfe-Lodun or the kingdom of lfe, it ismemorialised for its artistic clay ceramics or terracotta heads, copper alloys and passionately touched bronze ornaments.

Sons and daughters of the Yoruba culture owe their civilization to this dense historical city. The ancient Yorubacity which lies in present day Osun state, south-western Nigeria, is overwhelmingly considered as the birthplace of mankind.

Found around 500 B.C., Ile-lfe becomes one of the largest and oldest city of the Yoruba kingdom. According to ancient tradition, lfe (the place of dispersion) was found by two deities, Odududwa and Obatala

Obatala fashioned the first human out of clay while Odududwa became the first divine king of the Yoruba people. Historical evidence, however, tells us a different story. The indication is that the area was originally populated by the Igbopeople. Odududwa and his army invaded the city from the north, pushing the earlier inhabitants to the east and establishing the first Yoruba kingdom.

After the tragic death of Odududwa, sons and other descendants spread out from lIe-lfe to find other Yoruba state, thinning out the culture.

With the aging of time, the Yoruba kingdom eventually became one of Africa’s largest ethnic groups. A movement which cherished its artistic core as evidenced by the 12thcentury bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures. Oxymoronic meanings attached to these ornamental strongholds appear juxtaposed. The style and touch is unique, they depict,” youth and old age, health and disease, suffering and serenity”.

Currently, the royal dynasty of the celebrated Ile-lfe, is over eight centuries old. From 1980 to this day, Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II has been the Oba (king).

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