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The Yorùbá people are a near-homogenous and semi-independent peoples loosely linked by geography, language, history, culture and religion. Yorùbá communities can be found in different parts of West Africa but the largest concentration can be found in the Southwestern part of Nigeria. In Togo, the Yorùbá people are known as Anago, Tsha and Ife to the North. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, they are referred to as Aku. There are various speculations on the origin of the Yorùbá people and the time of their migration to their present location but it is commonly believed that they migrated from a region in the present day Middle East between 600 and 1000 AD.

The mythological origin of the Yorùbá people is generally traced to a single ancestor, Oduduwa. He was said to have resided in Ile-Ife, commonly considered the cradle of mankind and the place from which all people migrated to their present locations. Yorùbá people are highly urbanized and have resided in cities for many hundreds of years. Yorùbá cities formed the political centers of city-states governed by a king and supreme council within an aristocratic system. Prior to foreign interventions (European and Islamic), each Yorùbá city-state was autonomous and had its own distinct dialect, religious societies and army. These ancient states frequently warred with one another, and several centuries ago one of these kingdoms, Òyó, became dominant. Old Òyó, as this state is called, gave cohesiveness to Yorùbá custom and contributed greatly to the collective identity of modern Yorùbá-speaking people.

The Yorùbá people are predominantly farmers and highly skilled artists with a polytheistic religion centered on pantheon of divinities serving as intermediaries between man and the Supreme God. The trans-Atlantic slavery of the 18th and 19th centuries also brought a sizeable number of Yorùbá people to the New World, most especially to Cuba (where they are known as the Lukumi), Brazil (where they are known as Nago), Trinidad, Haiti Puerto Rico and America, where elements of Yorùbá culture and language are still found today. This is especially emphasized in the socio-cultural and religious lives of the many Yorùbá people in the Diaspora.

© African Studies Institute, University of Georgia