Yakö - Settlements

The Yakö live in large, compact, agro-towns that rank in size with many Yoruba towns. These towns have been referred to in the anthropological literature as "villages" only because most of their inhabitants farm. Each of the five Yakö towns was, prior to British rule, a politically independent unit, and the people began to refer to themselves as "Yakurr," instead of identifying themselves by the name of their town, only in the postindependence years. Each town except Idomi is divided into three or four small residential areas, or wards— yekpatu (sing. kekpatu ). Only exceptionally do such groups have any tradition of ultimate common descent; rather they are/were purely residential groups whose inhabitants farmed in the same general area. They were the main secular political units of the town, but they formed important ritual units only insofar as the rites were concerned with the defense of the area from external dangers. Until the post-1945 period, when questions of public health began to be seriously considered, a Yakö village seemed to be a continuous spread of compounds separated only by narrow alleyways. Each ward, however, had its own central assembly place, where certain shrines were located, where ward leaders and ward-based men's associations met, and where the men of an age set, organized on a ward rather than on a townwide basis, might also be called to meet. From the assembly place of each ward, a path led to the approximate center of the village, where a rather larger assembly place was located, close to the substantial compound of the town head. The compounds that composed the wards were normally approached through narrow alleyways leading into enclosed spaces that focused on the house of the compound head, which was flanked on both sides by the houses of his wives, each of whom was entitled to her own house. So far as possible, sons built within their father's compound. The houses were built of wood or, more usually, of mud daubed with wattle, and were roofed with a palm-frond thatch. This material decayed rapidly, and, because the houses of the dead were not repaired, there was usually room in the traditional compound for new houses or new occupants as they were needed.

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