Nigeria is known as "the giant of Africa" because it is the continent's most populated country. It is also extremely diverse, with more than 250 ethnic groups, each with its own cultural traditions. But Nigerians use a common word to demonstrate hospitality: wazobia (wa-zo-bee-a), which means "come" in the language of the three main ethnic groups: "Wa" means come in Yoruba, "zo" means "come" in Hausa, and "bia" means "come" in Igbo.
The Yoruba people make up 21% of the Nigerian population. They live in the southwestern part of the country. Many live in the country’s largest port city, Lagos.
They also live in Benin and Togo. Many people of African descent around the world claim Yoruba heritage. The coast of West Africa was a major slave port, and many Yoruba were forced into slavery.
Between the 11th and 15th centuries, the Yoruba people dominated a part of West Africa in a territory often referred to as Yorubaland. The slave trade and rivalry among different Yoruba groups resulted in a loss of power and influence inthe region. Slaves from Yoruba were taken to Brazil, Cuba, and North America. The Yoruba fell under British control in the late 19th century. Nigeria, where most Yoruba people live, gained independence in 1960 from the United Kingdom. The Yoruba people are known for their artistic heritage. Ancient works in copper, brass, bronze, terracotta, and stone are collected and admired. The Yoruba-speaking people are an urban people, forming cities as early as 1000. Oyo was an early city that became a central trading center for a large territory of West Africa.
Drums are played at special events in Nigeria. The Yoruba are famous for their talking drums. Skilled musicians use the rhythm and pitch of the drum to communicate different tones of language. A skilled drummer can make the instrument imitate a traditional proverb or send a message.
E Sin Mi D’Africa means “follow me to Africa” and combines movements from several common dances performed by the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. The dancers begin with arms open, welcoming everyone to the performances as it is customary in Yoruba gatherings to greet all guests, newcomers, and other special people with great generosity and warmth. The group then pays homage to the land with a very slow melody, their homage symbolized in the form of dancer playing the role of the Oba, or king. The dancers then shift to an Apepe step, a very quick set of movements that allows each dancer the freedom to demonstrate their skills. They follow the bata drum, with fast, circular footwork while interpreting the music and rhythm with their upper bodies. The drummers communicate the story, directing the dancers’ movements and, through subtle shifts, keeping the dancers attentive to changes in rhythm.
Using other video segments in this collection and the KET Dance Arts Toolkit, compare and contrast this dance to other African dances. What movements do you in see in more than one dance? What is unique to each dance?
The Yoruba are only one of more than 250 different ethnic groups in Nigeria. Using reference sources about the geography of Nigeria, consider how the country’s land and topographical features may have contributed to the strong individual identities of its ethnic groups.
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