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The Yoruba Culture in Gambia

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A few weeks ago, at a grocery store in Manhattan, the young lady at the check out desk noticed the name on my card and asked if I was Yoruba. She asked in Yoruba so I assumed she was Yoruba.


She is, but she’s from The Gambia and in The Gambia the Yoruba-speaking population are known as the Oku (or Aku). The Oku, who are also found in Sierra Leone, are descendants of liberated slaves from what is now southwest Nigeria who settled in Sierra Leone in the nineteenth century before moving up the coast to The Gambia.

The young lady at the grocery store has never been to Nigeria, nor have her parents, nor did her grandparents or their parents before them, and yet her Yoruba wouldn’t have sounded out of place anywhere in Yoruba land. This is because the Oku have retained a great deal of their Yoruba culture.

This, here, is an Oku egungun festival.
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Biyi Badenle

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