• The Inventory of Oyo Intangible Cultural Heritage is the product of a three year Community Based Inventory Training aimed at strengthening the Implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Nigeria. The project which was organized by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in collaboration with UNESCO was graciously funded by the UNESCO Japanese Fund – In – Trust.The outcomes of the researches/ field works by the ten (10) trained Community Based Inventory specialists engaged to document the intangible cultural heritage of Oyo between 2016 and 2017 formed  the basis of this Inventory. It it been updated based on annual  activities held on these elements by the host Community and the inventory is being managed by the Cultural Department of the Alaafin of Oyo Administration. It is the first Community Based Inventory recognized by the Oyo State and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  

1.Sàngó Festival Oyo / Odun Sàngó Oyo  

2.Òrìsà Divination System / Idáàsà / Érìndínlógún

3.The Kingship System in Oyo Alaafin- Igbákejì Òrìsà , a Good Example of UNESCO’S Best Practices of Humanity

4.Drum Making 

5.Calabash Carving : 

6. Aso-Òkè Weaving 

7.Black Soap Making

 8.Egungun Festival Oyo

1. Sàngó Festival Oyo / Odun Sàngó Oyo

The Sango Festival Oyo is one of the most ancient, traditional and major festivals of the Yoruba race. The aboriginal place of this traditional and cultural event is in the city of Oyo located in Oyo State in the southwest region of Nigeria, but it also takes place in others towns in Yoruba land. Due to the expansion of Oyo territory, Oyo was once the capital of the Oyo Empire, one of the most remarkable and vast Empires of West Africa that ruled for over 600 years, imprinting its culture, language and traditions across the region, known today as Yoruba common culture. Still, Oyo is perceived as a place where tradition is strongly preserved in its essence.

Sango Festival is a social practice, rituals and festive events deeply connected to the social, religious, cultural and political institutions in Oyo. It is a key element for the maintenance of the city’s identity, unity among the people since immemorial times and the survival of the heart and the mind of the Yoruba culture. It is the maintenance of coexistence with the ancestral world and nature.

Every August ten-day events of intensive traditional and beliefs practices accommodate many cultural features and it is during the period of strong rains, which marks the beginning of a productivity season cycle and a renewal bond between the Alaafin and Sango, the ancestral spiritual world.

It is a festival that reflects the traditional diversity of its environment. Several activities take place as, traditional prayers, rituals, reciting oral poetry under the rhythms of traditional drums followed by traditional dancing to evoke the ancestors and the exchanging of traditional presents between the royal palace and the Sango Koso main shrine.

The highlight of the festival happens on the last day when the city’s population assemble in Koso and waits eagerly for the arrival of the Elegun-Koso representing the ancestral spirit of Sango, leading the crowd towards the palace for the final spiritual blessing of the city. The Alaafin removes himself from the palace, as it is strictly forbidden for him to see the manifested ancestral spirit of Sango.

The Sango Festival is a particular and probably the most distinctive expression of the larger intangible heritage of Oyo town uniting all the forms of knowledge. As such, it encompasses all the range of techniques, skills, and crafts through which cultural values, customs, and traditions of Oyo people are manifested. As an indigenous society, traditions are perpetuated as a generational legacy and majorly passed down through oral transmission.

The Yoruba language is still used to transmit the embedded linguistic values of the ancestral identity of the traditional community in general. For instance by reciting the traditional oral “Oriki-Sango Pipe ” poems (eulogies), as a form of encoding historical antecedence in an interpretable and intelligible manner, is a clear example of the rich oral heritage related to the ancestor Sango, and indispensable for the conduction of the festival. The learning of “Oriki -Sango Pipe” poems, chants, prayers, liturgical rites, dancing, natural medicinal production, divination, drumming and even dancing starts from a young age. To ensure that parts of this rich and complex Oral legacy, Performing arts and Apprenticeship are not lost, traditional families transmit their knowledge through the informal method by teaching their male and female children and other members of the community.


2. Òrìsà Divination System / Idáàsà / Érìndínlógún

All traditional families in Oyo town are concerned with the nomination of Orisa Divination system, due to its importance in their daily life practices.

The Orisa communities are known as Sango, Yemoja, Oya, Osun, Obatala, Orisa Oko, Esu, Obaluaye, etc. and the Traditional Council are also dedicated to preserve this ancient divination a system knowledge.

Furthermore, His Imperial Majesty, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, The Alaafin of Oyo (King), the Paramount Ruler of Yoruba Race and Custodian of Yoruba Culture, is also concerned about preserving Yoruba’s traditional practices, being one of the most distinctive and indigenous practices for daily orientation of the families and the community in general.

It has been used also by the Alaafin of Oyo since the primordial times through his spiritual advisers, designated as the High Priest, Òndáàsà, who has been responsible for the welfare of the king, the royal family, and the town.

In the traditional Yoruba society, Orisa Divination System used by the traditional families traces back their origin to the primordial times.

This divination system is the oldest and most important for the Yoruba families.

Orisa divination System is a primordial counting and philosophical divination system, a social practice, containing rich oral knowledge. It is also known as Idáàsà, meaning ìdá-òòsà, the counting of Òrisa and as well as Érìndínlógún, meaning sixteen.

The Érìndínlógún is divided into sixteen ancient numerical categories known in Yoruba as Ònkà àgbà, each one accumulates uncountable itan (verses), as narrative oral forms of families and towns history, among other cultural concepts, which are recorded in these verses forming a Yoruba historical, cultural and mythological Compendium.

According to oral reports before the cowries shell were introduced as an instrument, pieces of ivory, nuts, and seeds were first used at the primordial times to represent the 16 ancient numerical categories.

The counting of the cowries that fall with close part facing up on the mat compared to the rest, determines the numerical category, before defining the Itan (verses) to be chanted. 

The Ònkà àgbà follow such order:

1. àgbà Èkín-ní Òkànràn,

2. àgbà Èkejì Èjì Òkò,

3. àgbà Èketa Ògúndá,

4. àgbà Èkerìn Ìrosùn,

5. àgbà Èkarùn-un Òsé,

6. àgbà Èkefà Òbàrà,

7. àgbà Èkeèje Òdí,

8.àgbà Èkejo Èjì-Ogbè,

9. àgbà Èkèsàn-án Òtúá,

10. àgbà Èkwàá Òfún,

11. àgbà Èkokànlá Òwónrín,

12. àgbà Èkejìlá Èjìlá Asébora,

13. àgbà àgbà Èkín-ní Òkànràn àgbà,

14. àgbà àgbà Èkejì Èjì Òkò àgbà,

15. àgbà àgbà Èketà Ògúndá Àgbà,

16. àgbà àgbà Èkerìn Ìrosùn Àgbà being the last four 13, 14, 15, 16 categories not chanted, due to their seniority. 

The Knowledge and skills related to the element are transmitted through Oral Tradition, no-formal Training, and Apprenticeship.

The traditional families transmit their knowledge through non-formal methods by teaching their male and female children the art of divination left by their ancestors. 

The training starts very early in life at age of five, the children will learn from their family elders or they will be sent to other families, who belong to the same Òrìsà ancestral lineage as their family, known as masters.

The children will live with the elderly members or with their masters, listening carefully to their elders’ interpretation of the divination.

The training consists of teaching how to use and manipulate the divination instrument by thems; to learn and distinguish the different numerical categories and memorization of verses, taught one at a time.

After mastering a number of verses in each numerical category, the learning of its interpretations will follow before the introduction to the rituals associated with the verses.

It is a constant learning and it is a well-codified knowledge from generation to generation without the art of writing.

This oral learning consists of repeating the verses until is memorized and this process helps to have control over the oral art.

The training of the children of traditional families represents an exceptional example of human endurance, due to the mental and psychological perseverance required.

The elderly members of Òrìsà traditional families are the custodians of the Yoruba culture.

The traditional Yoruba families believe that the Orisa divination system descended from heaven direct from the Supreme Creator (Olodumare} through the mythical figure named Orisa Obatala, whose knowledge was passed to other divinities of the Yoruba Orisa pantheon to support the humankind. 

This ancient divination system is seen as a bridge to connect the material life to the spiritual realm and a vehicle to communicate to the ancestral world and it still is strongly practiced not only among Oyo families but as well among other families in other towns and States in Yoruba land.

Besides the colonialism, the introduction of foreign religions and western education, the Yoruba families as Sango, Yemoja, Oya, Osun, Obatalá, Orisa Oko, etc. among others continue to maintain the practice left by their forefathers, consulting on weekly basis their own family Orisa divination system, in order to connect them to their ancestors’ lineage, seeking for advice, protection or solution in any family problem such as the choice of a life partner, a new job or problems of marital life, sickness, birth of a new child, fear of death, fear of enemies, lack of wife, lack of children and lack of money.

Furthermore, The Traditional Religious Council as such as Baale Onisango, Baale Olosun, Olori Yemoja among others represent the interest of the town and are daily involved with divination for clients or public divination, when the community is affected by a common problem as spread of diseases, lack of rain, etc jointly take care of the problem and look for a solution firstly through the traditional method of divination, giving them a sense of belonging and identity, as well keeping cultural continuity alive that makes it possible for people to preserve and transfer their culture.

Also, the political and religious structure of the traditional Yoruba societies is interconnected and dependent on the king (OBA). 

The kingship in Yoruba Land is an introduction into the Òrìsà traditional micro religious system, connecting the King to the Òrìsà (divinity) known as “Oba Aláàse Igbákejì Òrìsà ”, meaning “the king is the second gifted with authority after Òrìsà.

The theoretical Yorùbá concept is based on the delegation of authority of the Supreme Creator, Olódumàrè, to the Òrìsà (divinity), followed by the Oba.

Based on this traditional ruling structure system automatically the Alaafin of Oyo is involved as the ruler and spiritual leader of the community.

The High Priest named Òndáàsà is designated every five days to cast the Orisa divination system for the king and royal family, being responsible for their welfare.

The element is compatible with the existing international human rights instruments, as well with mutual respect among the communities and with gender equality, giving equal recognition to education eliminating gender inequality, reducing discrimination among the social classes and genders, by recognizing and practicing equality among the genders, eliminating inferior and superior complexes, respecting the environment and protecting people’s tradition.

3. The Kingship System in Oyo Alaafin- Igbákejì Òrìsà 

Oyo was once the Political capital of the Yoruba nation, also known as Katunga or Oyo-Oro, which rose and became one of the most remarkable and influential empires of West Africa ruling for over 600 years, imprinting its culture and language, known today as Yoruba common culture.

It was the most politically important Yoruba state, distinguishing itself with a good constitution and administration with enormous measure of civilization to develop.

Oyo Empire developed a highly sophisticated political structure to govern its territorial domains and the Kingship system of Oyo distinguished itself with unique models. It dominated over other Yoruba kingdoms namely, Ife, Ekiti, Ijesa, Egba, Ijebu, Ondo, Sabe and Owu, and It stretched beyond Ilorin and Offa into Igbomina in the North; Egbado in the South-west; River Ogun in the South and Dahomey in the East, occupying an area of 150,000 km2, enclosed by latitude 5 and 8 degree North of the equator and Longitude 5 and 21/2 degree East.

The word “Alaafin” connotes the owner of the palace. The King title (the Alaafin) gives a uniqueness not replicated in any other Yoruba ethnic group or variant.

His Imperial Majesty, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, The Alaafin of Oyo, who occupies the highest position of Yoruba traditional monarchy and acknowledged as the Paramount Ruler of Yoruba Race, has a legacy to protect Oyo’s traditional Kingship system practices.

The Oyo Mesi or Council of Notables made up of six principal councilors and prominent lineage Chiefs of Oyo, known as the kingmakers, led by Basorun, followed by Agbaakin, Samu, Alapinni, Lagunna and Akinniku are also directly concerned.

The Council of Chiefs represented by Baales (the father of the house), who oversees the administration of the town together with the local inhabitants of Oyo who are the bearers of the tradition.

Oyo Empire developed a highly sophisticated political structure to govern its territorial domains and the Kingship system of Oyo distinguished itself with unique models. Firstly, it evolved a developed and good constitution, though unwritten. The average Yoruba man is governed by strong convention.

Secondly, it evolved a practical method of administration, by adopting the cabinet system of governance. From the Alaafin to the Oyomesi, Ogboni and to the Are Ona Kankafo, had their roles and responsibilities and adhered to with separation of powers, and inputs for checks and balances, which enable the Alaafin to exercise absolute power. Although The Alaafin was the head of government and the Supreme judge of the empire; his Court was the final court of appeal. The Alaafin was carefully selected and commanded enormous respect.

The Oyomesi constituted the Electoral Council, represented the voice of the nation, followed by the Ogboni a society, who represented the voice of popular opinion.

Finally the Are-Ona-Kakanfo, the supreme commander of the imperial army, who was required to live in a frontier province of great strategic importance in imperial defense. 

Each province was ruled by their own kings chosen from the local ruling lineages, but they were led by The Alaafin and the system of government of the capital was repeated on a smaller scale in the provincial towns of the kingdom.

The Alaafin was also regarded as “ Igbákejì Òrìsà”, meaning “the one with authority, second only to the creator”; His position as a divine ruler was solidified through various traditional rites. He was the head of his people in the inseparable sphere of administration, religion, and justice.

Besides the Kingship System being a Good Example of UNESCO’S Best Practices of Humanity, modernization has decreased the strong connection to the cultural history of local communities with the sense of identity and continuity. Although it is to emphasize that preserving tradition doesn’t mean not to be compatible with globalization.

Oyo being the centre of cultural and political civilization of the Yoruba race with a living kingship system, which remains as a pivot of excellent governance and any attempt to destroy this tradition is the surest way to ruin modernization.

The Alaafin of Oyo being the custodian of people’s customs and spirituality instruments which forge the link between the present generation and the ancestral past has the legacy to preserve the community immemorial and long lasting tradition that is part of the community’s identity and memory.


Drum making is an indigenous Cultural practice among the Yorùbá’s, especially the Òyó’s, South-West region of Nigeria, West Africa. Talking Drum is a type of handcraft which has as its crucial significance both secular and spiritual uses. These talking drums are a symbol of the Aláàfin of Òyó, which originated in Old Òyó and spread from Òyó to other areas of Yorùbá Land.

The craft is a Talking Drum of four types which include: Dùndún (gúdúgúdú, ìyáìlù, omole ìsájú, omole ikeyin and aguda), Gángan, Bàtá (mother drum (ìyá ìlù), omole abo and omole méta. The omole méta consist of three drums which are Kúndi, Àdàmòn and omole ako) and Sèkèrè.

Talking drums are made from certain trees called tree of Òmòh, Igi Òmòh (Cordia mílleni), and hides of animals like Tiger, Goat, and Sheep. The talking drum makes use of three ascents to formulate their tunes. The three ascents include dò, re, mí. Dò is downward ascent represented by \ symbol. Re is middle ascent represented by – symbol while mí is the upward ascent is represented by / symbol.

These three ascents are the basis of Yorùbá Language. It is the foundation of every word pronounced in Yorùbá Language. Hence, Yorùbá is a tonal language. Every word in Yorùbá intonation is the combination of one, two and / or the three ascents.

The functions of talking drums cannot be underestimated. The talking drum can be used to summon people home from distant farms, from the brooks and from nearby hamlets. It can be used to deliver messages to the people and break news to them. For instance, news about the passing on of a notable community figure or news about the arrival of a dignitary can be passed across through the talking drum.

At Yorùbá Oba’s palaces, the talking drum is used to communicate with the monarch. It is used to give warm welcome and reception to visitors to the palace.

During inter-tribal wars of the olden days in Yorùbá land, the talking drum was used to galvanize and stir warriors, thus helping them to defeat opponents on the battlefield.

It is to supplement oral reporting in situations in which the voice would be too feeble or where certain things are better conveyed by instrumental sounds or by whistling than by word of mouth.

Talking Drum enhances the promotion of cultural diversity and creativity. Drum making is an indigenous Cultural practice among the Yorùbá’s, especially the Òyó’s, South-West region of Nigeria, West Africa. Talking Drum is a type of handcraft which has as its crucial significance both secular and spiritual uses. These talking drums are a symbol of the Aláàfin of Òyó, which originated in Old Òyó and spread from Òyó to other areas of Yorùbá Land.

5. Calabash Carving

CALABASH/GOURD CARVING (Igbá fínfín) is a traditional handcraft profession domesticated in Oyo, Southwestern Nigeria. It is an ancient handcraft dated back to centuries ago in Oyo Empire and has spread across other Yoruba land through the influence of the Oyo Empire.

Calabash/gourd is carved with creative and traditional designs on them. Calabash serves as domestic, traditional and religious purposes. It is also for traditional rites, to offer gifts to visitors, decorations and to honour royalty. The different types of calabashes come in different sizes which determine its uses which are mostly round in shape. They are: Igbá ẹrù, Ahà, Àdému, Akèrèǹgbè etc.

Though modernization has infiltrated the ancient craft of calabash carving, the beauty still remains relevance. Gourd and calabash carving are derived largely from the ancient motifs and techniques. The designs, motifs, and inscriptions on the calabashes symbolize different traditional and social meaning, though the contemporary motifs have been introduced.

6. Aso-Òkè Weaving

ASO – ÒKÈ WEAVING is a traditional hand-woven cloth craft. This craft is practiced among the Oyo community in Yoruba land of the South Western part of Nigeria, West Africa and has spread across major communities in Yoruba land today through the influence of the Oyo Empire. Aso-Òkè weaving is a special handmade, made from raw cotton and colors for dyeing the thread that are extracted from plant materials. The three major types of Aso-Òkè are Sányán, Àláárì and Etù go through the process of wool spinning; soaking in traditional soap; dyeing; starching and weaving.

This indigenous knowledge system of handcraft is a complex component part of Yoruba Culture within the context of traditional handcraft. This practice entails environmental adaptation because the raw materials are locally sourced e.g. cotton, dyes from plant pigments, leaves from tree , inner bark of trees, as well as tool /equipment which are locally sourced and used in the process of weaving Aso-Òkè.

The Yoruba’s generally use Aso-Òkè in a number of ways which could be casual or ceremonial. Aso-Òkè is reserved for special occasion where formal and dignified dressing is required. Yoruba women use Aso-Òkè as girdle (òjá) to strap babies, wrappers (ìró), head tie (gèlè), blouse (bùbá) and shawl (ìborùn). They wear a complete dress consisting of trouser (sòkòtò), top (bùbá), large embroiled flowing gown (agbádá) and cap (fila). Aso-Òkè is highly valued as a special gift for dignified people. Aso-Òkè could serve as an important gift at weddings for the bride’s family in Yoruba land. Aso-Òkè can be used as Aso-Ebí (commemorate cloth) among the Yoruba community of southwestern Nigeria.

In the past, Sányán and Etù were only woven within the premises of the king’s palace by old master weavers and they are worn for coronation and other important events.

7. Black Soap Making

OSE DUDU known as traditional black soap is a black coloured natural soap made from Cocoa ashes (Eru koko) and black or white palm kernel oil (Adi Dudu/Funfun).

Black soap is a traditional and cultural practice which originated Oyo by the Yoruba people of the South-West, Nigeria and have spread across to other Yoruba communities due to the influence of Oyo Empire.

Traditional black soap is natural which is free from harmful chemicals and preservatives. Apart from its domestic functions of bathing, washing, it is also used to bath newborn babies, dead bodies and it is drinkable to cure internal ailments as prescribed by traditional medicine practitioners.

Black soap has a proper mixture of moisturizing and cleansing ingredients that fight different skin ailments like Chicken pox, measles, piles, ringworm, eczema, oily skin, pimples, spots, stretch marks etc. Black soap corrects the adverse effects on the skin as a result of the use of modern soaps. Ọsẹ Dúdú from Yoruba land contains original formulation. Its method of production is still the old processing method used in making original black soap.

Traditional black soap does not expire and no user has been allergic to its use.

8. Egungun Festival Oyo

The Egungun Festival is part of the ancient festivals in Oyo, connected with the cultural practice of remembering the ancestors, which has spread with the expansion of the Old Oyo Empire all over Yoruba land.

The practice of Egungun culture is quite strong among Oyo-Yoruba people, especially the community in Oyo town, who interact with their ancestors with the utmost respect.

The Yoruba belief in life after death (reincarnation) and they consider that the spirit of a buried corpse joins the ancestors to become an Egungun (Masquerade). Egungun is, therefore, a physical form of representation for the dead ones and a way of immortalizing the loved ones, that is, ancestral worship.

The Oyo community believes that the spirit of an ancestor hovers around its family and watches over them. An expansion of this belief is that the spirit of the dead can directly influence the affairs of the living. Since the spirit of the ancestors is capable of being benevolent to the living, they are venerated in order to keep them at peace with the living. Venerating the spirits of the dead is of utmost importance among the people of Oyo and, indeed, in Yoruba communities in general.

All Yoruba communities are involved in the veneration of Egungun (Masquerade) since everybody has one ancestor to call upon; therefore the annual Egungun Festival is collectively organized when the spirits of the ancestors share physical fellowship with their family on the earth.

The Festival can last up to twenty – one (21) days and it is believed that the ancestors will return back to heaven at the end of the Festival. The Egunguns appearances is usually arranges between May and July. Each of the Oje families, a prefix attached to all Masquerade lineages, will dedicate the first two (2) days of the festival for thanksgiving prayers to the lineage ancestors and arrange for their lineage Egungun to go on a procession around the Community.

The communities always lead their family Egungun on a procession around the town to celebrate them and to help rid the community of illnesses and pandemics. The people who are challenged by barrenness, sickness and those believed to be troubled by negative forces wait along the Masquerades route to be blessed. Egungun Festival is seen as an institution, which was introduced and developed by the society as a philosophy in response to the society ideological needs.

Each Egungun lineage displays solidarity which underscores the importance of the festival for the community through actively participating in the processes leading to a successful festival. The wives and daughters of the Egungun families get prepared by rehearsing their lineages Masquerade songs, chants and praise names (cognomen).

The men from the different Egungun lineages practice dance and all forms of displays with, atori, otherwise known as whips (decorated stripe).

The assembled drummers summon the Egungun, which are adorned with costly costumes; to come out by utilizing their talking drums to make rhythmic sounds of the praise names of the Egungun and invoking the spirits of the principal men deceased in the family.

Some Egungun have masks on the head, which are exquisitely carved in wood, and made to represent a man or woman while others do not have masks. They are elaborately dressed, bedecked with a wealth ornaments of native manufacture like, bangles, beads, etc,. They dance and move majestically, treading heavily to the rhythmic sound of drums and other musical instruments.

There are more than three hundred (300) compounds with Egungun in Oyo Community. The Alapini, a principal member of the king-makers and the executive council of the Alaafin of Oyo known as the Oyo-Mesi is the overall leader of all Egungun owners and chiefs in Oyo Kingdom. He is in charge of all Egungun activities in the whole of Oyo Kingdom.