A TERM PAPER ON THE CULTURE OF PEACE IN YORUBA TRIBE
IREFIN BLESSING OLUWATOSIN –
SOETAN OLAMIPO OMOKEHINDE – 16/SMS10/010
The Yoruba people are an ethnic group of southwestern and north-central Nigeria, as well as southern and central Benin. Together, these regions are known as Yoruba land. The Yoruba constitute over 40 million people in total. The majority of this population is from Nigeria, and the Yoruba make up 21% of the country's population, according to the CIA World Fact book, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language, which is tonal.
As an ethnic description, the word "Yoruba" was first recorded in reference to the Oyo Empire in a treatise written by the 16th century Songhai scholar Ahmed Baba. It was popularized by Hausa usage and ethnography written in Arabic and Ajami during the 19th century, in origin referring to the Oyo exclusively. The extension of the term to all speakers of dialects related to the language of the Oyo (in modern terminology North-West Yoruba) dates to the second half of the 19th century. It is due to the influence of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first Anglican bishop in Nigeria. Crowther was himself a Yoruba and compiled the first Yoruba dictionary as well as introducing a standard for Yoruba orthography. The alternative name Akú, apparently an exonym derived from the first words of Yoruba greetings (such as Ẹ kú àárọ? "good morning", Ẹ kú alẹ? "good evening") has survived in certain parts of their diaspora as a self-descriptive, especially in Sierra Leone.
The Yoruba culture was originally an oral tradition, and the majority of Yoruba people are native speakers of the Yoruba language. The number of speakers is roughly estimated at about 30 million in 2010. Yoruba is classified within the Edekiri languages, which together with the isolate Igala, form the Yoruboid group of languages within the Volta-Niger branch of the Niger-Congo family. Igala and Yoruba have important historical and cultural relationships. The languages of the two ethnic groups bear such a close resemblance that researchers such as Forde (1951) and Westermann and Bryan (1952) regarded Igala as a dialect of Yoruba.
As of the 7th century BCE the African peoples who lived in Yorubaland were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. By the 8th century, a powerful Yoruba kingdom already existed in Ile-Ife, one of the earliest in Africa.
The Yoruba were the dominant cultural force in southern Nigeria as far back as the 11th century.
The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centres organized around powerful city-states (Ìlú) centred around the residence of the Oba. In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses, with high walls and gates. Yoruba cities have always been among the most populous in Africa. Archaeological findings indicate that Òyó-Ilé or Katunga, capital of the Yoruba empire of Oyo (fl. between the 11th and 19th centuries CE), had a population of over 100,000 people (the largest single population of any African settlement at that time in history). For a long time also, Ibadan, one of the major Yoruba cities, was the largest city in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa. Today, Lagos (Yoruba: Èkó), another major Yoruba city, with a population of over twenty million, remains the largest on the African continent.
Archaeologically, the settlement of Ile-Ife showed features of urbanism in the 12th–14th century era. In the period around 1300 CE the artists at Ile-Ife developed a refined and naturalistic sculptural tradition in terracotta, stone and copper alloy - copper, brass, and bronze many of which appear to have been created under the patronage of King Obalufon II, the man who today is identified as the Yoruba patron deity of brass casting, weaving and regalia. The dynasty of kings at Ile-Ife, which is regarded by the Yoruba as the place of origin of human civilization, remains intact to this day. The urban phase of Ile-Ife before the rise of Oyo, c. 1100–1600, a significant peak of political centralization in the 12th century is commonly described as a "golden age" of Ile-Ife. The oba or ruler of Ile-Ife is referred to as the Ooni of Ife.
Ife continues to be seen as the "Spiritual Homeland" of the Yoruba. The city was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power in the 17th century.
Most of the city states were controlled by Obas (or royal sovereigns with various individual titles) and councils made up of Oloyes, recognised leaders of royal, noble and, often, even common descent, who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds and cults. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the kingships and the chiefs' councils. Some, such as Oyo, had powerful, autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in others such as the Ijebu city-states, the senatorial councils held more influence and the power of the ruler or Ọba, referred to as the Awujale of Ijebuland, was more limited.
RELIGION AND MYTHOLOGY
The Yoruba faith, variously known as Aborisha, Orisha-Ifa or simply (and erroneously) Ifa, is commonly seen as one of the principal components of the African traditional religions.
Orisa'nla, also known as Ọbatala, was the arch-divinity chosen by Olodumare, the Supreme God, to create solid land out of the primordial water that then constituted the earth and populating the land with human beings molded out of clay.
TRADITIONAL YORUBA RELIGION
The Yorùbá religion comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practices of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland. Yorùbá religion is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of itan, the total complex of songs, histories, stories and other cultural concepts which make up the Yorùbá society.
Cockerel on Osun chalice. In the Yoruba creation story, Olodumare the supreme God sent Obatala to earth to create mankind. One of the things he took with him was a rooster, which spread soil over the earth by using its clawed feet
One of the most common Yoruba traditional religious concepts has been the concept of Orisha. Orisha (also spelled Orisa or Orixa) are various godly forms that reflect one of the various manifestations / avatars of God in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system. Some widely known Orisha are Ogun, (God of metal, war and victory), Shango or Jakuta (God of thunder, lightning, fire and justice who manifests as a king always wielding a double-edged axe which conveys his Ashe or divine authority & power), Esu/Eshu elegbara (The trickster and sole messenger to the pantheon, who conveys the wish of men to the gods. He understands every language / tongue spoken by humankind, and is also the guardian of the crossroads, Oríta méta in Yoruba). Eshu has two avatar forms which are manifestations of his dual nature- positive and negative energies; Eshu Laroye, a teacher instructor and leader, and Eshu Ebita, jesty, deceitful, suggestive and cunning, Orunmila, The god of Infinite Knowledge, divination, wisdom and fortune-telling, who reveals the past, solution to problems in the present, and the future, consulted through the Ifa divination system by oracles called Babalawos.
An Iroke or Irofa (Ìròkè Ifá) is the divination tapper of the Yoruba. It is long, slender and often slightly curved. Used in combination with the Opon Ifa or divination board. Traditionally made from Ivory, but also brass & wood.
Olorun is one of the manifestations / avatars of the Supreme God of the Yoruba pantheon, the owner of the heavens, and is associated with the Sun known as Oòrùn in the Yoruba language. The other two avatar forms of the supreme God are; Olodumare, the supreme creator and Olofin, who is the conduit between Òrunn (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth), Oshumare a god that manifests in the form of a rainbow, also known as Òsùmàrè in Yorùbá, Obatala god of clarity and creativity Etc. This religion has found its way throughout the world and is now expressed in practices as varied as Candomblé in Brazil, Lucumí/Santería in Cuba and North America, orisha or ifa in Trinidad (Trinidad Orisha), Kélé in Saint Lucia, Anago and Oyotunji, as well as in some aspects of Umbanda, Winti, Obeah, Vodun and a host of others. These varieties, or spiritual lineages as they are called, are practiced throughout areas of Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Togo, Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela, among others. As interest in African indigenous religions grows, Orisha communities and lineages can be found in parts of Europe and Asia as well. While estimates may vary, some scholars believe that there could be more than 100 million adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.
Beaded crown (Adé) of a Yoruba Oba, the Ogoga of Ikere, Ekiti State. According to Yoruba customs, only kings who are direct descendants of Oduduwa can wear a beaded crown.
Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba recounts Odùduwà to be the Progenitor of the Yoruba and the reigning ancestor of their crowned kings.
His coming from the east, sometimes understood from Ife traditions to be Oke-Ora and by other sources as the "vicinity" true East on the Cardinal points, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland/central Nigeria. Ekiti is near the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, and is where the Yoruba language is presumed to have separated from related ethno-linguistic groups like Igala, Igbo, and Edo.
After the death of Oduduwa, there was a dispersal of his children from Ife to found other kingdoms. Each child made his or her mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of the Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each kingdom tracing its origin due to them to Ile-Ife.
After the dispersal, the aborigines became difficult, and constituted a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be survivors of the old occupants of the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these people now turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and burn down houses and loot the markets. Then came Moremi on the scene; she was said to have played a significant role in the quelling of the marauders advancements. But this was at a great price; having to give up her only son Oluorogbo. The reward for her patriotism and selflessness was not to be reaped in one lifetime as she later passed on and was thereafter immortalized. The Edi festival celebrates this feat amongst her Yoruba descendants.
CHRISTIANITY'>ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
The Yoruba are traditionally a very religious people, and are today pluralistic in their religious convictions. The Yoruba are one of the more religiously diversified ethnic groups in Africa. Many Yorubas can be found in different types of Christian denominations. Many others are Muslims, as well as practitioners of the traditional Yoruba religion. Yoruba religious practices such as the Eyo and Osun-Osogbo festivals are witnessing a resurgence in popularity in contemporary Yorubaland. They are largely seen by the adherents of the modern faiths, especially the Christians and Muslims, as cultural rather than religious events. They participate in them as a means to celebrate their people's history, and boost tourist industries in their local economies.
The Yorubas were one of the first groups in West Africa to be introduced to Christianity on a large scale. Christianity (along with western civilization) came into Yorubaland in the mid-19th century through the Europeans, whose original mission was commerce.The first European visitors were the Portuguese, they visited the Bini kingdom in the late 16th century, as time progressed other Europeans- such as the French, the British, and the Germans followed suit. British and French were most successful in their quest for colonies (These Europeans actually split Yorubaland, with the larger part being in British Nigeria, and the minor parts in French Dahomey, now Benin, and German Togoland). Home governments encouraged religious organizations to come, and to Christianize the so-called "animist" Africans. Roman Catholics (known to the Yorubas as Ijo Aguda, so named after returning former Yoruba slaves from Latin America, who were mostly Catholic, and were also known as the Agudas, Saros or Amaros) started the race, followed by Protestants, whose prominent member- Church Mission Society (CMS) based in England made the most significant in-roads into the hinterland regions for evangelism and became the largest of the Christian missions. Methodists (known as Ijo-Eleto, so named after the Yoruba word for "method or process") started missions in Agbadarigi / Gbegle by Thomas Birch Freeman in 1842. Henry Townsend, C.C.Gollmer, and Ajayi Crowther of the CMS worked in Abeokuta, then under the Egba division of Southern Nigeria in 1846.
Hinderer and Mann of CMS started missions in Ibadan / Ibarapa and Ijaye divisions of the present Oyo state in 1853. The Baptist missionaries-Bowen and Clarke concentrated on the northern Yoruba axis-(Ogbomoso and environs). With their success, other religious groups- Salvation Army, Evangelists Commission of West Africa (ECWA) became popular among the Igbomina and other non-denominational Christian groups joined. The increased tempo of Christianity led to the appointment of Saros and indigenes as missionaries, this move was initiated by Venn, the CMS Secretary. Nevertheless, the impact of Christianity in Yoruba land was not felt until fourth decade of 19th century, when a Yoruba slave boy, Samuel Ajayi Crowther had become a Christian convert, linguist, whose knowledge in languages would become a major tool and instrument to propagate Christianity in Yoruba land and beyond. Today, there are a number of Yoruba Pastors and Church founders with large congregations, e.g. Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church World Wide also known as Winners Chapel, Pastor Tunde Bakare of Latter rain Assembly, Prophet T. B. Joshua of Synagogue of All Nations, William Folorunso Kumuyi of Deeper Christian Life Ministry and Dr Daniel Olukoya of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries. The Yoruba are known for their love of privacy and respect for other ethnic groups - particularly around bigger cities such as Lagos and in Diasporan communities.
Islam came into Yorubaland centuries before Christianity and before the first Europeans ever set foot in Yorubaland. Yorubas first came in contact with Islam around the 14th century, as a result of trade with the Fulanis of the Malian Empire, during the reign of Mansa Kankan Musa. Hence, why Islam is traditionally known to the Yoruba as Esin Male or simply Imale i.e. religion of the Malians. On the other hand, another school of thought describes Imale as a compound form of the Yoruba phrase "imo lile" which literally means "hard knowledge". This definition of the Islamic Religion is simply due to the way the adherents of the religion sought to spread Islam forcefully, thus the word "lile" in Yoruba which could also be translated as "with force". In fact, Islam was practiced in Yorubaland so early on in history, that a sizable proportion of Yoruba slaves taken to the Americas were already Muslim. Some of these Yoruba Muslims would later on stage the Malê Revolt (or The Great Revolt) which was the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil. On a Sunday during Ramadan in January 1835, in the city of Salvador, Bahia, a small group of slaves and freedmen, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose up against the government. Muslims were called Malê in Bahia at this time, from Yoruba Imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim.
According to Al-Aluri, the first Mosque was built in Ọyọ-Ile / Katunga in 1550 A.D. although, there were no Yoruba Muslims at the time, the Mosque served the spiritual needs of foreign Muslims living in Ọyọ.
The Arugba leading the procession to the Osun grove
One of the first observations of first time visitors to Yorubaland is the rich, pomp and ceremonial nature of their culture, which is made even more visible by the urbanized structures of Yoruba settlements. These occasions are avenues to experience the richness of the Yoruba culture. Traditional musicians are always on hand to grace the occasions with heavy rhythms and extremely advanced percussion which the Yorubas are well known for world over. Praise singers and Griots are there to add their historical insight to the meaning and significance of the ceremony, and of course the varieties of colorful dresses and attires worn by the people, attest to the aesthetic sense of the average Yoruba.
The Yoruba are a very expressive people who celebrate major events with colorful festivals and celebrations (Ayeye). Some of these festivals (about thirteen principal ones) are secular and only mark achievements and milestones in the achievement of mankind, these include wedding ceremonies (Ìgbéyàwó), Naming ceremonies (Ìsomolórúko), Funerals (Ìsìnkú), Housewarming (Ìsílé), New-Yam festival (Ìjesu), Odon itsu in Atakpame, Harvest ceremonies (Ìkórè), Birth (Ìbí), Chieftaincy (Ìjòyè) and so forth. Others have a more spiritual connotation, such as the various days and celebrations dedicated to specific Orisha like the Ogun day (Ojó Ògún), The Osun festival, which is usually done at the Osun-Osogbo sacred grove located on the banks of the Osun River and around the ancient town of Osogbo. The festival is dedicated to the river goddess Osun, which is usually celebrated in the month of August (Osù Ògùn) yearly. The festival attracts thousands of Osun worshippers from all over Yorubaland and The Yoruba diaspora in the Americas, spectators and tourists from all walks of life. The Osun-Osogbo Festival is a two-week-long programme. It starts with the traditional cleansing of the town called 'Iwopopo', which is then followed in three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp called Ina Olojumerindinlogun, which literally means The sixteen eyed fire, the lighting of this sacred lamp, heralds the beginning of the Osun festival. Then comes the 'Ibroriade', an assemblage of the crowns of the past ruler, Ataojas of Osogbo, for blessings. This event is led by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba Yeye Osun (who is usually a young maiden dressed in white, who carries a sacred white calabash that contains propitiation materials meant for the goddess Osun, she is also accompanied by a committee of priestesses.A similar event holds in the New World as Odunde Festival.
Another very popular festival with spiritual connotations is the Eyo Olokun festival or Orisha play, celebrated by the people of Lagos. The Eyo festival is a dedication to the God of the Sea Olokun, who is an Orisha, and whose name literally mean Owner of the Seas. Generally, there is no customarily defined time for the staging the Eyo Festival, this leads to a building anticipation as to what date would be decided upon. Once a date for its performance is selected and announced, the festival preparations begin. It encompasses a week-long series of activities, and culminates in a striking procession of thousands of men clothed in white and wearing a variety of coloured hats, called Aga. The procession moves through Lagos Island Isale Eko, which is the historical centre of the Lagos metropolis. On the streets, they move through various crucial locations and landmarks in the city, including the palace of the traditional ruler of Lagos, the Oba, known as the Iga Idunganran. The festival starts from dusk to dawn, and has been held on Saturdays (Ojó Àbáméta) from time immemorial. A full week before the festival (always a Sunday), the 'senior' eyo group, the Adimu (identified by a black, broad-rimmed hat), goes public with a staff. When this happens, it means the event will take place on the following Saturday. Each of the four other 'important' groups — Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green) and Agere (Purple) — take their turns in that order from Monday to Thursday.
The Eyo masquerade essentially admits tall people, which is why it is described as Agogoro Eyo (literally meaning the tall Eyo masquerade). In the manner of a spirit (An Orisha) visiting the earth on a purpose, the Eyo masquerade speaks in a ventriloquial voice, suggestive of its otherworldliness; and when greeted, it replies: Mo yo fun e, mo yo fun ara mi which in Yoruba means: (I rejoice for you, and I rejoice for myself). This response connotes the masquerades as rejoicing with the person greeting it for the witnessing of the day, and its own joy at taking the hallowed responsibility of cleansing. During the festival, Sandals and foot wears, as well as Suku: A hairstyle that is popular among the Yorubas, one that has the hair converge at the middle, then shoot upward, before tipping downward, are prohibited. The festival has also taken a more touristic dimension in recent times, which like the Osun Osogbo festival, attracts visitors from all across Nigeria, as well as Yoruba diaspora populations. In-fact, it is widely believed that the play is one of the manifestations of the customary African revelry that serves as the forerunner of the modern carnival in Brazil and other parts of the New World, which may have been started by the Yoruba slaves transplanted in that part of the world due to the Atlantic slave trade.
The Batá drum – from left: Okónkolo, Iyá, Itótele
The music of the Yoruba people is perhaps best known for an extremely advanced drumming tradition especially using the dundun hourglass tension drums. The representation of musical instruments on sculptural works from Ile-Ife, indicates, in general terms a substantial accord with oral traditions. A lot of these musical instruments date back to the classical period of Ile-Ife, which began at around the 10th century A.D. Some were already present prior to this period, while others were created later. The hourglass tension drum (Dùndún) for example, may have been introduced around the 15th century (1400's), the Benin bronze plaques of the middle period depicts them. Others like the double and single iron clapper-less bells are examples of instruments that preceded classical Ife.Yoruba folk music became perhaps the most prominent kind of West African music in Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical styles. Yorùbá music left an especially important influence on the music of Trinidad, the Lukumi religious traditions, practice and the music of Cuba.
Yoruba hollow slit drum
Yoruba drums typically belong to four major families, which are used depending on the context or genre where they are played. The Dùndún / Gángan family, is the class of hourglass shaped talking drums, which imitate the sound of Yoruba speech. This is possible because the Yoruba language is tonal in nature. It is the most common and is present in many Yoruba traditions, such as Apala, Jùjú, Sekere and Afrobeat. The second is the Sakara family. Typically, they played a ceremonial role in royal settings, weddings and Oríkì recitation; it is predominantly found in traditions such as Sakara music, Were and Fuji music. The Gbedu family (literally, "large drum") is used by secret fraternities such as the Ogboni and royal courts. Historically, only the Oba might dance to the music of the drum. If anyone else used the drum they were arrested for sedition of royal authority. The Gbèdu are conga shaped drums played while they sit on the ground. Akuba drums (a trio of smaller conga-like drums related to the gbèdu) are typically used in afrobeat. The Ogido is a cousin of the gbedu. It is also shaped like a conga but with a wider array of sounds and a bigger body. It also has a much deeper sound than the conga. It is sometimes referred to as the "bass drum". Both hands play directly on the Ogido drum.
Agogo metal gongs
Within each drum family there are different sizes and roles; the lead drum in each family is called Ìyá or Ìyá Ìlù, which means "Mother drum", while the supporting drums are termed Omele. Yoruba drumming exemplifies West-African cross-rhythms and is considered to be one of the most advanced drumming traditions in the world. Generally, improvisation is restricted to master drummers. Some other instruments found in Yoruba music include, but are not limited to; The Gòjé (violin), Shèkèrè (gourd rattle), Agidigbo (thumb piano that takes the shape of a plucked Lamellophone), Saworo (metal rattles for the arm and ankles, also used on the rim of the bata drum), Fèrè (whistles), Aro (Cymbal)s, Agogô (bell), different types of flutes include the Ekutu, Okinkin & Igba.
The talking drum
Oriki (praise singing), a genre of sung poetry, which contains a series of proverbial phrases, praising or characterizing the respective person is of Egba and Ekiti origin, is often considered the oldest Yoruba musical tradition. Other Yoruba vocal traditions include Ijala (hunter chants), Ewi (poetry), and Odu (Ifa worship songs) Yoruba music is typically Polyrhythmic, which can be described as interlocking sets of rhythms that fit together somewhat like the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. There is a basic timeline and each instrument plays a pattern in relation to that timeline. The resulting ensemble provides the typical sound of West African Yoruba drumming. Yorùbá music is regarded as the most important components of the modern Nigerian popular music scene. Although traditional Yoruba music was not influenced by foreign music, the same cannot be said of modern-day Yoruba music which has evolved and adapted itself through contact with foreign instruments, talent and creativity.