The Yoruba people of Nigeria and neighboring Benin in West Africa are primarily farmers who also have a fine tradition of woodcraft and metalworking.
Yoruban stories and histories are primarily passed down orally from generation to generation. Storytelling is still a favorite activity among the Yoruba people, but in the twenty-first century it competes with television and written works, including works by Yoruban authors.
Storytelling in the Yoruban style is a very active art. It involves taking on the voices and personas of the various characters, as well as performing music and dancing. The audience also takes an active role in the story. Listeners are expected to get involved by beating drums or singing along.
|the evening meal|
Storytelling sessions generally occur after the evening meal. Yoruban folktales always begin with a call-and-response chorus called the alo chorus (alo means riddle). One of the young men will begin by asking the other young men two or three riddles to determine whether everyone in the group is awake and alert. Then, the tale begins.
The types of stories are similar to those found in other cultures, such as myths, legends, fables, poetry, family or society histories, and folktales. Hero tales, how-and-why tales (also known as pourquoi tales), and trickster tales are also popular. Tortoise and Ananse the Spider are the major trickster figures in West African folktales.
Yoruban stories often center on the theme of fertility to a greater degree than is usually found in world folktales. This is due, in part, to a high infant mortality rate in the region.
|West African folktales|