{Architecture: Indigenous}

Amole, Bayo, and Stephen Folaranmi. "{Architecture: Indigenous}." In Culture and Customs of the Yoruba, edited by Toyin Falola and Akintunde Akinyemi, 171-189. Austin, Texas: Pan-African University Press, 2017.


Introduction The Yorùbá people of South-Western Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, (see fig. 1. Extent of area covered by the Yoruba in West Africa) together with many countless descendants in other parts of Africa, the Americas and beyond have made remarkable contributions to world civilisation in many ways. In the arts, they possess one of the oldest and finest traditions in Africa, a tradition that still remains vital and influential today. The Yorùbá are well known especially for their wooden sculptures which are mainly used as door panels, veranda posts, pillars, and stools in their buildings. They also carve thousands of figurative sculptures which are either used for religious or utilitarian purposes. Aside from their art in wood, they are excellent workers of metal, casters of Brass and Bronze, calabash carvings, bead works, and traditional wall decoration. All these numerous creative endeavours are executed either along with, or in support of Yorùbá indigenous architecture, which is relatively permanent in structure. Therefore it is clear that our understanding of the Yorùbá people will never be complete without a full investigation of the physical environment in which the people live, work, and play. Indeed Yorùbá architecture is a rich context from which to draw a study of Yorùbá culture. The Yorùbá are known to be city dwellers, the make-up of their houses points to the fact that for thousands of years they have occupied large towns, which are different from their farm settlements called abà. The tropical regions and semi-rainforest savannah in which they are located is also highly suitable for various forms of agricultural practice and development. Thus they cultivate food crops like maize, yam, cassava, beans and vegetable materials as well as tree crops like cocoa, palm trees, cola nuts, and cashews, to mention a few. While farmers are on the farm attending to crops, the hunters are in the deep forest, hunting for wild game. The presence of several different food strategies portrays the Yorùbá as a self-sufficient group before their contact with the outside world especially Europeans. As a result, it allows them to be more stable in order to construct more permanent structures for private, public and religious purposes. The Yorùbá population, for reasons of self-defence, sheer gregariousness, or both is predominantly urban. This is unlike various other ethnic groups that surround the Yorùbá. Even the farmers have their houses in the town and look upon their farms, which are in many cases situated at great distances from town, merely as places of work and temporary residences 3 . A typical Yorùbá village consists of a number of family compounds along with structures that serve the larger community. Each family compound may have separate structures for cooking, eating, sleeping, storing food (granary), and protecting animals at night. Structures may be round, rectangular, or semi-circular in shape. Communal structures, for holding meetings and teaching children, are located in a prominent place within the village. Known for their highly organized traditional and social groupings; the Yorùbá had a well ordered socio-political set up both at their urban and rural dwelling places long before colonization and contact with the outside world. Their houses are thus designed along this pattern especially with the compound being the focus of family life. In the past, the average Yorùbá family comprised the man, who is the head of the house or compound, his wife or wives depending on how prosperous he is, and their children. The house or compound becomes more enlarged and homogenous when his male children start getting married. These sons usually occupy another building within the same clan compound, thus