'Runaway Wives' of Yoruba Chiefs and the Narratives of Women's Sexuality in Colonial Nigeria


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


History & International Studies


The focus of this study is to establish the social and cultural practices that shaped the institution of marriage in pre-colonial Yorubaland and the colonial factors that altered the age-old practices. The findings revealed that British colonialism injected serious disequilibrium into the age-old values and practices of Yoruba marriage institution, and this ultimately had grave consequences for the indigenous ruling institution - the custodian of the sacred values of the people. The wives of Yoruba chiefs began to take advantage of newly-imposed marriage ordinances and laws to begin the repudiation of traditional practices that made it taboo for a Yoruba chief's wife to ask for divorce. This work, which adopts the historical/analytic approach, interrogates gender relations in the inner recesses of Yoruba traditional ruling homes and the steps taken to address the problems represented by the divorcement, elopement and sexual transgressions of wives of some Yoruba chiefs in colonial times.