Oduduwa was a Yoruba divine king.[1] According to tradition he was the holder of the title of the Ooni of Ile-Ife, the Yoruba holy city.[2] He was not only the first ruler of a unified Ife,[3][4] but also the progenitor of various independent royal dynasties in Yorubaland and ancestor of their numerous crowned kings.[5][6] His name, phonetically written by Yoruba language-speakers as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Ooduwa, Odudua or Oòdua is today venerated as "the hero, the warrior, the leader and father of the Yoruba race".[7] Through a war lasting many years, Oduduwa was able to defeat opposing forces of the 13 indigenous communities of Ife to become King of Ife and formed these communities into a single Ife unit.

IMG-20180922-WA0007 cropped.jpg
Ife bronze head depicting a monarch (possibly Oduduwa)
Reignc. 1100 AD (early 12th Century)
A Statue of Oduduwa

Oduduwa held the praise names Olofin Adimula, Olofin Aye and Olufe.[8] Following his posthumous deification, he was admitted to the Yoruba pantheon as an aspect of a primordial divinity of the same name.[9]


  • Oduduwa is the power of the womb, that brings forth into existence
  • Oduduwa represents omnipotence, the ability to affect and reconstruct the physical reality at will.
  • Oduduwa - odu da uwa - odu to da iwa - the principle that created the physical reality

Ife traditionsEdit

Ife tradition, which modern Yoruba historians accord precedence, relates that Oduduwa was an emissary from the community of Oke-Ora, the easternmost part of the Ife cultural area which stretches towards the Northeastern Ijesa people. He descended from the Hills on a chain, earning the oriki Atewonro (which means 'one who descends on a chain'). He is said to have been a warrior that wore armor made of iron. At that time, a confederacy existed between the 13 communities of the valley of Ile-Ife, with each community or 'Elu' having its own Oba; the Oba of Ijugbe, the Oba of Ijio, the Oba of Iwinrin etc.

When Oduduwa rose to be a prominent citizen of ancient Ife, he and his group are believed to have conquered or gained support of most of the 13 component communities and deposed Obatala, subsequently evolving the palace structure with its effective centralized power and dynasty. Due to this, he is commonly referred to as the first Ooni of Ife and progenitor of the legitimate kings of the Yoruba people.

Later yearsEdit

Upon the ending of Oduduwa's time on Earth, there was a dispersal of his children and grandchildren from Ife to the outposts that they had previously founded or gained influence over, in order for them to establish effective control over these places. Each is said to have made his or her mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of the Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each child and grandchild fashioning his or her state after Ile-Ife.

Orunto, a child of Oduduwa that was born to his maid, is the ancestor of the families that are entitled to inherit the Obalufe title - it is held by a noble chief that is traditionally ranked second in the order of precedence at the Ooni's court.

Obalufon II Alayemore was on the throne when Oranmiyan, youngest grandson of Oduduwa, returned from his sojourn and ordered that the kingship be given to him and hence back to the legitimate family of Oduduwa. Oranmiyan's son Lajamisan was therefore the progenitor of all of the Oonis that have reigned in Ife from his time till now, prompting historians to label it the Lajamisan dynasty, which has remained unbroken for almost 700 years.

Oduduwa and the line of OlowuEdit

Oduduwa's daughter, Iyunade, later gave birth to the future crowned king of Owu. He is believed to have acquired his crown as a toddler while crying on his grandfather's lap.

Oduduwa and the line of AlaketuEdit

Omonide, Oduduwa's favorite wife, gave birth to Sopasan, the father of the future crowned kings of Ketu. Sopasan was the first to leave Ile-Ife with his mother and crown. He settled at such temporary sites as Oke-Oyan and Aro. At Ara, Soposan died and was succeeded by Owe. The migrants stayed for a number of generations and broke camp in the reign of the seventh king, Ede, who revived the westward migrations and founded a dynasty at Ketu.

Oduduwa and the line of ÒràngúnEdit

Ajagunla Fagbamila Orangun, son of Oduduwa, is crowned king of Ila. Oduduwa is said to have wanted more sons to silence his critics. On the advice of the Ifa oracle, he went to a stream, where he found a naked lady by the name of Adetinrin Anasin. She eventually became his wife and the mother of Ifagbamila (which means "Ifa saves me")

Oduduwa and the line of OnisabeEdit

  • The first son left Sabe on account of peace and started his kingdom in Iganna (modern day Oyo state).
  • Another son of Okanbi and grandson of Oduduwa is ancestor to all subsequently crowned kings of Sabe.

Oduduwa and the line of AlaafinEdit

Oranmiyan, grandson and youngest member of Oduduwa's household, went on to found Oyo-Ile. His sons Ajaka and Sango rule Oyo in their turn.


Oranmiyan was the last son, or possibly was a grandson, of Oduduwa. He was the most adventurous of the members of Oduduwa's household. The controversy surrounding his birth is due to the fact that both Oduduwa and his son Ogun had an affair with the same woman, Lakange, which resulted in Oranmiyan.[10] Oranmiyan would later become the first Alaafin of Oyo, and the sixth Ooni of Ife. He also impregnated a daughter of a Benin chief who gave birth to Eweka, the founder of the Oba dynasty in Benin.

Moremi and the UgboEdit

After the dispersal of the family of kings and queens, the aborigines became ungovernable, and constituted themselves into a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be supporters of Obatala who had ruled the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these people turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and burn down houses and loot the markets. It is at this point that Moremi Ajasoro, a princess of Offa, of the lineage of Olalomi Olofagangan, the founder of Offa-Ile and the paramount head of the Ibolo region of the old Oyo kingdom, a member of the Ooduan dynasty by marriage to Oranmiyan, is said to have come onto the scene; she subsequently played a significant role in restoring normalcy back to the situation through a spying mission. She allowed herself to be captured and taken away with them. Subsequent to this she had married the king of the Ugbo. Her new husband wanted pleasures from her but she wouldn't give in because she was married previously and was on a mission. She told him to tell her the secret of the marauders, he didn't want to but after a great deal of prodding, he gave in. He told her that the only thing they fear was FIRE, if they saw fire they would run. After this information she concocted an escape plan. She asked for some oranges and made the juice have a sleeping effect on the palace people. When they woke up after eating them, they found that she had gone to tell her people of their weakness. The people of Ife were soon prepared for the marauders.[11]

Alternative viewsEdit

Oduduwa and his/her role in creationEdit

Yoruba religious traditions about the dawn of time claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite Orisa. As such, he (or she, as the primordial Oduduwa originally represented the Divine Feminine aspect and Obatala the Divine Masculine) was sent from heaven to create the earth upon the waters, a mission he/she had usurped from his/her consort and sibling Obatala, who had been equipped with a snail shell filled with sand and a rooster to scatter the said sand in order to create land. These beliefs are held by Yoruba traditionalists to be the cornerstone of their story of creation. Obatala and Oduduwa here are represented symbolically by a calabash, with Obatala taking the top and Oduduwa taking the bottom. In this narrative, Oduduwa is also known as Olofin Otete, the one who took the Basket of Existence from Olodumare.

Another depiction of Oduduwa as being the wife of Obatala is presented in Odu Ifa Osa Meji, a verse of the Ifa oracle. In this Odu, Obatala discovers the secret of his wife and steals the masquerade's robes from her to wear it himself. This is suggested to be a historical representation of a switch from matriarchy to patriarchy. [12]

This cosmological tradition has sometimes been blended with the tradition of the historical Oduduwa. According to other traditions, the historical Oduduwa is considered to be named after an earlier version of Oduduwa who is female and related to the Earth called Ile. [13] [14]

The earlier traditions of either a gender fluid or an expressly female Oduduwa are seen in the spirit's representation in the Gelede tradition. Initiates of Gelede receive a shrine to Oduduwa along with a Gelede costume and mask. This speaks to Oduduwa as associated wíth the divine ancestral mothers that are known as Awon iya wa or Iyami under their command. Here, Oduduwa is revered as the mother of the Yoruba. [15]

A Yoruba Muslim's viewEdit

Among the critics of Yoruba traditions about Oduduwa is the London-based Yoruba Muslim scholar, Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Adelabu. In an interview with a Nigerian media house, the founder and spiritual leader of Awqaf Africa Society in London dismissed the common belief that all Yorubas are descendants of Oduduwa as "a false representation by Orisha worshippers to gain an unjust advantage over the spread of Islam and the recruitment of Christianity".[16] The Muslim scholar advised his followers against using phrases such as Omo Oduduwa (or Children of Oduduwa) and Ile Oduduwa (or Land of Oduduwa). He argued that the story that all the Yorubas are children of Oduduwa was based only on word of mouth.[16]

Other alternative viewsEdit

Certain other peoples have claimed a connection to Oduduwa. According to the Kanuri, Yauri, Gobir, Acipu, Jukun and Borgu tribes - whose founding ancestors were said to be Oduduwa's brothers [17] (as recorded in the 19th century by Samuel Johnson), Oduduwa was the son of Damerudu, whom Yoruba call either Lamurudu or Lamerudu, a prince who was himself the son of the magician King Kisra. Kisra and his allies are said to have fought Mohammed in the Battle of Badr. Kisra was forced to migrate from Arabia into Africa after losing the war to the jihadists in 624 AD. He and his followers founded many kingdoms and ruling dynasties along their migration route into West Africa.[18][19][20] This tradition is a variant of the belief that held that Oduduwa was a prince originating from Mecca. However, this belief is thought by some scholars to derive from the later influences on Yoruba culture of Islamic and other Abrahamic religions, and conflicts with other traditions from the corpus of Yoruba myth.[21][22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Law, R. C. C. (1973). "The Heritage of Oduduwa: Traditional History and Political Propaganda among the Yoruba". The Journal of African History. 14 (2): 207–222. doi:10.1017/S0021853700012524. ISSN 0021-8537. JSTOR 180445.
  2. ^ "The Yoruba States | World Civilization". courses.lumenlearning.com. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  3. ^ Lynch, Patricia Ann (17 June 2018). African Mythology, A to Z. ISBN 9781438119885.
  4. ^ Alokan, Adeware (17 June 2018). The Origin, Growth & Development of Efon Alaaye Kingdom. ISBN 9789783456785.
  5. ^ *Obayemi, A., "The Yoruba and Edo-speaking Peoples and their Neighbors before 1600 AD", in J. F. A. Ajayi & M. Crowder (eds), History of West Africa, vol. I (1976), 255–322.
  6. ^ Falola, Toyin; Mbah, Emmanuel (17 June 2018). Dissent, Protest and Dispute in Africa. ISBN 9781315413082.
  7. ^ Arifalo, S. O. (17 June 2018). The Egbe Omo Oduduwa: a study in ethnic and cultural nationalism. ISBN 9789783550766.
  8. ^ Atanda, Joseph Adebowale; Oguntomisin, Dare (17 June 2018). Readings in Nigerian History and Culture. ISBN 9789783654822.
  9. ^ Rapoport, Amos (17 June 2018). The Mutual Interaction of People and Their Built Environment. ISBN 9783110819052.
  10. ^ Beier, Ulli (1980-10-02). Yoruba Myths. ISBN 9780521229951.
  11. ^ Yoruba Alliance: Archived 2011-07-02 at the Wayback MachineWho are the Yoruba!
  12. ^ Washington, Teresa (2014). The Architects of Existence. United States: Oyas Tornado. pp. 25–28. ISBN 978-0991073016.
  13. ^ Lawal, Babatunde (1995). "À Yà Gbó, À Yà Tó: New Perspectives on Edan Ògbóni" (PDF). African Arts. 28 (1): 36–49. doi:10.2307/3337249. JSTOR 3337249 – via Jstor.
  14. ^ Babatunde, E.D. (1980). "Ketu Myths and the Status of Women" (PDF). Ayelekumari.com. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  15. ^ Drewal, Margaret and Henry (1993). Gelede:Art and Female Power among the Yoruba. Indiana University Press. pp. 232–234. ISBN 0253205654.
  16. ^ a b DELAB International Magazine, July 2010 1465-4814
  17. ^ History of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson 1921
  18. ^ A. Matthews " The Kisra legend) "https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00020185008706819?journalCode=cast20
  19. ^ Eluyemi, Omotoso (17 June 2018). "This is Ile-Ife".).
  20. ^ Akinjogbin, I. A. (17 June 2018). Milestones and concepts in Yoruba history and culture. ISBN 9789763331392.
  21. ^ Ogundipe, Ayodele (2012). Esu Elegbara: Chance, Uncertainly In Yoruba Mythology. Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria: Kwara State University Press. p. 15. ISBN 9789789275908.
  22. ^ Bascom, Yoruba, p. 10; Stride, Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires", p. 290.

Further readingEdit

  • Ojuade, J. S., "The issue of 'Oduduwa' in Yoruba genesis: the myths and realities", Transafrican Journal of History, 21 (1992), 139–158.