Yoruba Kingdom – The Brief History of Yoruba people

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Photo credit: World History Encyclopedia

Welcome to a captivating journey to the history of the Yoruba Kingdom, through time and space. We shall be discussing the history of yoruba land briefly in this article. This is a realm steeped in ages-old traditions, profound cultural heritage, and a history that harkens back centuries. In this intriguing tale, we delve into the captivating aspects of Yoruba Land’s history. We revealed the remarkable evolution of the Yoruba people and their kingdom. Yoruba land is not only home to this renowned ethnic group but also a cultural hub that has significantly shaped the nation.

Brief History of Yoruba Kingdom

The Yoruba kingdom, a land of ancient wonders, finds its roots nestled within southwestern Nigeria. The Yoruba people have endured and prospered across the ages, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s history. According to Yoruba folklore, their ancestry can be traced back to the great ancestor Oduduwa. Oduduwa was believed to be a divine figure created by the Supreme Being. It’s believed Oduduwa descended from the heavens on a chain, with the mission of establishing the Yoruba kingdom. Oduduwa had a son and 7 grandchildren. His son was known as Okanbi, and Okanbi gave birth to 7 children which are Olowu of Owu, Onisbe of Sabe, Onipopo of Popo. Other are; Oba of Benin, Orangun of Ila, Alaketu of Ketu, and Alafin of Oyo. These children are founders of several towns in Yoruba land.

 It is said that the Yoruba people’s origin lies in the ancient city of Ile-Ife. Ile-ife is therefore often referred to as the “cradle of Yoruba civilization.” According to Yoruba mythology, the creation of humanity started in Ile-Ife, making it the spiritual and cultural hub of Yoruba Land.

One cannot fully understand the Yoruba people and their kingdom without appreciating their vibrant culture. The Yoruba culture is like a tapestry woven with colorful threads of art, music, religion, and traditional rituals. These are integral aspects of their identity and have contributed significantly to their historical significance.

The Yoruba constitute over 40 million people in total; the majority of this population is from Nigeria and make up 21% of its population, according to the CIA World Factbook, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa – Source

The Yoruba Kingdom’s Golden Era

The emergence of the Yoruba Kingdom as a powerful and influential force can be traced back to the 12th century. This era’s known as the golden era of Yoruba history. During this period, several city-states, such as Ibadan, Oyo, and Ife, emerged as powerful entities. Their relevance cut across arts, political, and military strength.

The Ile-Ife Empire, renowned for its outstanding artistic achievements. The city of Ife is credited with producing intricate bronze and terra-cotta sculptures that depict the Yoruba pantheon of deities, reflecting their deep spirituality and cultural significance.

The Oyo Empire reached its zenith during the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming the pre-eminent Yoruba state. Renowned for its administrative structure and strategic alliances, the Oyo Empire dominated vast territories, extending its influence beyond Yoruba Land.

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Colonial Era Challenges

Sadly, with the advent of European colonization, Yoruba land faced significant challenges. The British colonial powers disrupted traditional governance structures, leading to political disarray. However, the indomitable spirit of the Yoruba people minimized the impact of these challenges.

The 20th century marked a significant turning point in the history of Yoruba people. During this time, intellectuals and nationalist leaders emerged, championing the cause for independence. The likes of Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Chief Ladoke Akintola paved the way for a Yoruba renaissance. They advocated for education, cultural preservation, and political representation, heralding a new era of Yoruba pride and achievement.

Preserving Cultural Heritage

In the modern era, Yoruba Land has witnessed a remarkable resurgence in the preservation of its cultural heritage. The Yoruba people have embraced their roots, diligently working to ensure the survival and continuity of their customs, festivals, and traditional practices. These efforts have ensured that the Yoruba Kingdom remains an epitome of cultural diversity and living history.

Present-day Yoruba Heritage

Today, Yoruba land stands as a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of its people. The Yoruba language, with its distinct tonalities and melodic cadences, holds a special place in Nigerian literature, music, and entertainment. Elements of Yoruba culture, such as the celebration of traditional festivals, the worship of deities (Orishas), and the practice of Ifa divination, continue to thrive, despite the impact of modernization.


As we conclude our journey through time, we celebrate the Yoruba people’s rich history and the indelible mark they have left on Nigeria’s cultural landscape. From legendary origins to the flourishing empires and the modern Yoruba renaissance, their story exemplifies resilience, creativity, and a deep-rooted connection to their heritage. The history of Yoruba people serves as a reminder that the past is not a stagnant chapter but a vibrant tapestry that continues to shape the present and inspire the future.

So, wanderers of wisdom, take a voyage into the enchanting realms of Yoruba Kingdom, for within its history lies a profound connection to the past and a reverberation into the future.

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