Yoruba City Planning in West Africa

Concentrated mainly in Benin and Nigeria, the Yoruba were able to maintain a militant sociopolitical network of alliances through rituals and trade along the West African coast. What scholars try to reach in the article City Planning: Yorùbá City Planning is how the Yoruba men came to personify the “noble savage” axiom that grew in the minds of those who paid more attention to the theory of evolution. This is done by comparing how urbanization was installed by the local Africans in their subscription to Westernization, mixed with both indigenous and Islamic ideologies that supplemented daily urban life for the locals. These vicinities were defined in the 1960s as “semi-urban”, where the majority of residences are made of temporary building material. The people were held more closely by traditional notions of community and social hierarchy, with the king right in the center as their head spatial architect.

In classical Western sense, it becomes easy to depict the Yoruba as practical subjects of “medieval-style” peoples (i.e. peasants, serfs, kings) in terms of socio-political relations with outside commercial prospectors. What interested me the most was the article’s description of ex-slaves from Brazil who specialized in the way houses and structures were built in West Africa. It took a fair amount of indigenous West Africans to sail straight across the other side of the ocean and then return later and perfect what they learned on the other side as a beneficial mark of their efforts to make it back to their ancestral land. Much of this can be reminiscent to what my colleague Robert Deleon described in Exchanging Our Country’s Marks about the conservation of ancestral ideologies by transatlantic Africans.

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