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Influential Yoruba Individuals: The Top 10 Names to Know

The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, and they have given rise to numerous notable individuals in the entertainment industry, politics, and other fields. Here are 10 popular celebrities and notable people from Yoruba ethnicity:

  • Fela Kuti: A legendary musician and political activist, Fela Kuti is known for pioneering the Afrobeat genre.
  • Olamide: One of Nigeria’s most successful rap artists, Olamide is known for his energetic performances and hit songs.
  • Funke Akindele: A highly accomplished actress, Funke Akindele has appeared in numerous Nollywood movies and is known for her role in the TV series “Jenifa’s Diary.”
  • Wole Soyinka: A Nobel laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka is a renowned playwright, poet, and essayist.
  • Genevieve Nnaji: Genevieve Nnaji is one of Nigeria’s most popular and successful actresses, with several awards to her name.
  • Adebayo Ogunlesi: A prominent businessman, Adebayo Ogunlesi serves as the chairman and managing partner of Global Infrastructure Partners.
  • RMD: Richard Mofe-Damijo, commonly known as RMD, is a veteran actor who has received accolades for his roles in both Nollywood and international films.
  • Tiwa Savage: Tiwa Savage is a popular Nigerian singer-songwriter known for her hit songs and collaborations with international artists.
  • Yemi Alade: Yemi Alade is a multi-talented artist known for her energetic performances and successful music career.
  • Akinwumi Adesina: Akinwumi Adesina is a renowned agricultural economist and the president of the African Development Bank.
The Yoruba people (US:  YORR-ə-bə, UK:  YORR-uub-ə; Yoruba: Ìran Yorùbá, Ọmọ Odùduwà, Ọmọ Káàárọ̀-oòjíire) are a West African ethnic group who mainly inhabit parts of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. The areas of these countries primarily inhabited by the Yoruba are often collectively referred to as Yorubaland. The Yoruba constitute more than 48 million people in Africa, are over a million outside the continent, and bear further representation among members of the African diaspora. The vast majority of the Yoruba population is today within the country of Nigeria, where they make up 20.7% of the country's population according to Ethnologue estimations, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native or L1 speakers.In Africa, the Yoruba are contiguous with the Yoruboid Itsekiri to the south-east in the northwest Niger Delta, Bariba to the northwest in Benin and Nigeria, the Nupe to the north, and the Ebira to the northeast in central Nigeria. To the east are the Edo, Ẹsan, and  Afemai groups in mid-western Nigeria. To the northeast and adjacent to the Ebira and northern Edo, groups are the related Igala people on the left bank of the Niger River. To the south are the Gbe-speaking Mahi, Gun, Fon, and Ewe who border Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo, to the west they are bordered by the Kwa-speaking Akebu, Kposo of Togo, and to the northwest, by the Kwa-speaking Anii, and the Gur speaking Kabiye, Yom-Lokpa and Tem people of Togo.  Significantly Yoruba populations in other West African countries can also be found in Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.Outside Africa, the Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; the first being that of the Yorubas taken as slaves to the New World between the 16th to 19th centuries, notably to the Caribbean (especially in Cuba) and Brazil, and the second consisting of a wave of relatively recent migrants, the majority of whom began to migrate to the United Kingdom and the United States following some of the major economic and political changes encountered in Africa in the 1960s to 1980s.

Most Famous Yoruba People

Yoruba’s Three Pinnacle Historical Inheritances

The Yoruba community is one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, with a rich cultural heritage that spans several centuries. This community inhabits mainly the southwestern part of Nigeria, although they can also be found in other regions of West Africa. The Yoruba people have made significant contributions to various aspects of society, including but not limited to art, religion, and language.

1. Ife Art

One of the most well-known historical inheritances associated with the Yoruba heritage is Ife art. Ife, a city in present-day southwestern Nigeria, is revered as the cradle of Yoruba civilization. The art produced by the Ife people is renowned for its distinctive style and exceptional craftsmanship. Ife art includes sculptures made from various materials such as terracotta, bronze, and stone. These sculptures often depict human figures with elaborate hairstyles, intricate jewelry, and realistic facial features. The Ife art style has had a profound impact on African and global art, influencing many artists throughout history.

2. Yoruba Religion

The Yoruba community is known for its rich religious practices and beliefs. The Yoruba religion is centered around the worship of numerous deities known as Orishas. These Orishas are believed to have various powers and influence over different aspects of life, such as fertility, healing, and prosperity. The Yoruba religion also includes ritual ceremonies, dance, and music as integral parts of worship. Today, Yoruba religious traditions continue to be practiced by millions of people, both within and outside Nigeria.

3. Yoruba Language

The Yoruba language is one of the most widely spoken languages in Nigeria, with over 20 million speakers. It belongs to the Niger-Congo language family and is part of the Volta-Niger branch. Yoruba has a rich oral tradition and is known for its complex grammatical structure and extensive vocabulary. The language has also influenced various Afro-Caribbean dialects, particularly those spoken in Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad, and Tobago. Yoruba language and culture are actively preserved and promoted by Yoruba communities worldwide.

Conclusion

The Yoruba community’s historical inheritances, such as Ife art, Yoruba religion, and Yoruba language, have made significant contributions to the cultural landscape of not only Nigeria but also the wider world. These inheritances serve as a testament to the creativity, spirituality, and linguistic richness of the Yoruba people. Through their unique cultural practices, the Yoruba community continues to shape and inspire countless individuals across various disciplines.

Ethnic Factsheet: The Yoruba People

Population Approximately 40 million
Region Primarily southwestern Nigeria
Languages Yoruba
Religion Primarily Christianity and Islam, with some traditional Yoruba beliefs
Culture Known for their art, music, and rich cultural traditions
Occupation Agriculture, trading, civil service, academia, and various professions
The Yoruba people (US:  YORR-ə-bə, UK:  YORR-uub-ə; Yoruba: Ìran Yorùbá, Ọmọ Odùduwà, Ọmọ Káàárọ̀-oòjíire) are a West African ethnic group who mainly inhabit parts of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. The areas of these countries primarily inhabited by the Yoruba are often collectively referred to as Yorubaland. The Yoruba constitute more than 48 million people in Africa, are over a million outside the continent, and bear further representation among members of the African diaspora. The vast majority of the Yoruba population is today within the country of Nigeria, where they make up 20.7% of the country's population according to Ethnologue estimations, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native or L1 speakers.In Africa, the Yoruba are contiguous with the Yoruboid Itsekiri to the south-east in the northwest Niger Delta, Bariba to the northwest in Benin and Nigeria, the Nupe to the north, and the Ebira to the northeast in central Nigeria. To the east are the Edo, Ẹsan, and  Afemai groups in mid-western Nigeria. To the northeast and adjacent to the Ebira and northern Edo, groups are the related Igala people on the left bank of the Niger River. To the south are the Gbe-speaking Mahi, Gun, Fon, and Ewe who border Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo, to the west they are bordered by the Kwa-speaking Akebu, Kposo of Togo, and to the northwest, by the Kwa-speaking Anii, and the Gur speaking Kabiye, Yom-Lokpa and Tem people of Togo.  Significantly Yoruba populations in other West African countries can also be found in Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.Outside Africa, the Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; the first being that of the Yorubas taken as slaves to the New World between the 16th to 19th centuries, notably to the Caribbean (especially in Cuba) and Brazil, and the second consisting of a wave of relatively recent migrants, the majority of whom began to migrate to the United Kingdom and the United States following some of the major economic and political changes encountered in Africa in the 1960s to 1980s.

The Ancient Heritage of Yoruba Ethnic Groups

References to the Yoruba Ethnic Group

For those interested in learning more about the Yoruba ethnic group, there are several references and resources available that provide in-depth information about their history, culture, language, and religion. These resources can help dig deeper into the rich and diverse heritage of the Yoruba people.

  • “The Yoruba” by Akinwumi Ogundiran: This book offers a comprehensive overview of the Yoruba people, discussing their origins, social organization, political history, and cultural practices. It provides valuable insights into the Yoruba worldview and the impact of colonialism on their society.
  • “Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought”: This exhibition catalog, published by the Center for African Art, explores the artistic traditions of the Yoruba people. It showcases a wide range of artworks, including sculpture, textiles, jewelry, and ceramics, providing a glimpse into the beauty and significance of Yoruba artistry.
  • “The Language of Ifa: Yoruba Scientific Spirituality” by Awo Fa’lokun Fatunmbi: This book delves into the spiritual teachings and practices of the Yoruba people, focusing on Ifa divination. It explores the language and symbolism of Ifa, offering a deeper understanding of Yoruba religious beliefs and rituals.
  • “Yoruba Folktales” edited by Amos Tutuola: This collection of traditional Yoruba folktales provides a glimpse into the oral storytelling tradition of the Yoruba people. The stories reflect the cultural values and beliefs of the Yoruba community, offering insights into their worldview and moral teachings.
  • “Yoruba Religion and Medicine in Ibadan” by John Peel: This ethnographic study explores the relationship between religion and medicine in the Yoruba city of Ibadan, Nigeria. It sheds light on the role of traditional healers, diviners, and religious practices in healthcare, showcasing the blending of spiritual and practical approaches to healing.

These references and resources are just a starting point for anyone interested in delving deeper into the Yoruba ethnic group. They provide a multidimensional view of the Yoruba people, allowing for a better understanding of their history, culture, language, and religious practices.

Explore other famous people with Irish Travellers, Maasai and Sharchops roots, showcasing the diversity of ethnic backgrounds. Investigating influential individuals with diverse ethnic backgrounds tied to these Yoruba origins unveils the interwoven tapestry of global cultures and their impactful contributions to the world.

We have reached the end of our exploration into the extraordinary lives of prominent Yoruba. We hope this journey has been enlightening and inspiring.

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