Yoruba is one of the oldest and largest cultural groups in Africa. The ethnographic composition of the Yoruba speakers has been established way back before the discovery of their art works.
The Yoruba speakers have a highly organized cultural and political institution ever before contact with the Europeans. Art right from traditional to contemporary times in the Yoruba culture has always played a significant role.
Art, according to the researcher, can be described as the ‘sum total of a man’; art can be seen in language, costume, arts, food, myths, norms, beliefs, values, architecture, dance and music, musical instrument, our physiques, religion, even in our geographical locations. Art is also a language of expression and a means of communication; it requires inventiveness, method, mastery, imagination, knowledge, creativity and skill. Art can be imitative when it describes events, it can be formalistic when it involves artistic experiments, and it can be functional and emotional also. Art emphasizes mood, it can be significantly beautiful, ugly, pitiable or sorrowful. Art is the intentional communication of an experience as an end in itself. Art is the machine that brings the cultural manifestation of the people to reality.
Thus, it is not an over statement to say art, symbol and royalty amongst the Yoruba speakers in Nigeria is inseparable. In Africa one can extrapolate information from extinct anthropological finds that traditional arts and crafts were practiced solely for three major reasons; prestige immortalization and worship.
In the period around 1300 CE the artists at 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 Ife, which regarded the Yoruba as the place of origin of human civilization, remains intact to this day.
The custom of art and artists among the Yoruba is deeply rooted in the Ifá literary corpus, indicating the orishas Ogun, Obatala, Oshun and Obalufon as central to creation mythology including artistry (i.e. the art of humanity).
In order to fully understand the centrality of art n Yoruba thought, one must be aware of their cosmology, which traces the origin of existence to a Supreme Divinity called Olodumare, the generator of ase, the enabling power that sustains and transforms the universe.
To the Yoruba, art began when Olodumare commissioned the artist deity Obatala to mold the first human image from clay. Today, it is customary for the Yoruba to wish pregnant women good luck with the greeting: May Obatala fashion for us a good work of art.
The concept of ase influences how many of the Yoruba arts are composed. In the visual arts, a design may be segmented or seriate—a "discontinuous aggregate in which the units of the whole are discrete and share equal value with the other units.' Such elements can be seen in Ifa trays and bowls, veranda posts, carved doors, and ancestral masks.
Yoruba art is known for its vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and symbolism, and it is an important part of Yoruba culture and history. Yoruba art includes a wide variety of forms, including sculpture, textiles, pottery, and metalwork.
One of the most iconic Yoruba art forms is sculpture, which includes a variety of styles and techniques. Yoruba sculpture is often used to depict religious figures, ancestors, or other important figures, and it is often used in religious ceremonies and rituals. Yoruba sculpture is known for its intricate detailing and expressive poses, and it is often made from materials such as wood, bronze, or terra cotta.
Yoruba artifacts can be found in a number of places, including museums, art galleries, and private collections.
Many museums and art galleries around the world have collections of Yoruba artifacts, including sculptures, textiles, pottery, and metalwork. These collections may be dedicated specifically to Yoruba art and culture, or they may be part of larger collections of African or world art. Some examples of museums and art galleries with Yoruba artifact collections include the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Musée de l'homme in Paris.
In addition to museum and art gallery collections, Yoruba artifacts can also be found in private collections. Private collectors may own Yoruba artifacts that they have acquired through various means, such as purchasing them from art dealers or collectors, or inheriting them from family members. These artifacts may be displayed in the collectors' homes or may be kept in storage.
It is also possible to find Yoruba artifacts for sale on the art market, either through art dealers or at auctions. However, it is important to be aware that the art market can be complex and can be subject to issues such as theft, fraud, and illicit trade, so it is important to be cautious when purchasing Yoruba artifacts.
Yoruba art festivals are held in many parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, and Europe. These events celebrate Yoruba culture and traditions, and they often feature a variety of Yoruba art forms, including sculpture, textiles, pottery, and music.
Yoruba arts festivals often include exhibitions and displays of Yoruba art, as well as performances of Yoruba music and dance. They may also include workshops, lectures, and other educational programs that provide information about Yoruba culture and traditions.
In addition to showcasing Yoruba art and culture, Yoruba arts festivals can be a way to bring people together and to celebrate the diversity and richness of Yoruba culture.
London is home to a large and vibrant Yoruba community, and there are a number of Yoruba arts festivals that are held in the city. These festivals celebrate Yoruba culture and traditions and provide an opportunity for people to experience Yoruba art and culture.
One example of a Yoruba arts festival in London is the Africa Utopia festival, which is held annually at the Southbank Centre. The Africa Utopia festival is a multi-day event that celebrates African culture and includes a wide range of activities, including music, dance, art, and lectures. The festival often features Yoruba art and culture, and it provides an opportunity for people to learn more about Yoruba traditions and to experience Yoruba music, dance, and art.
Another example of a Yoruba arts festival in London is the Yoruba Arts Festival, which is organized by the Yoruba Arts Network. This festival is held annually and includes a variety of activities, including exhibitions, performances, and workshops, that celebrate Yoruba art and culture. The Yoruba Arts Festival provides an opportunity for people to experience Yoruba art and culture and to learn more about Yoruba traditions.