Symbolic Meaning of Colours in Cultures: A Case Study of Yoruba and Chinese Societies

Author: Adetoro Olaniyi Banwo (Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies,Faculty of Arts,University of Lagos,Akoka-Lagos, Nigeria)
Speaker: Adetoro Olaniyi Banwo
Topic: Ethnography of Communication
The GLOCAL CALA 2023 General Session


Since the early Palaeolithic era, colours have always been part of human life and they have been important images that have shaped the normal existence of our civilisation today. Colours across cultures have been found to influence human perceptions and their mode of communication verbally or non-verbally. The fact remains that different cultures associate’ different notions to colours and these values are deeply crafted in the subconscious mind of the people in these cultures. This study examines the symbolic meaning of different colours in two diverse cultures and societies while understanding that colours hold strong expressive connotations and psychological differences. Data for this research work were obtained through critical case sampling and content analysis was used to study this work. Certain factors such as mythical, religious, historical and cultural meanings were selected for this work. This study adopts the symbolic interactionism theory as conceived by George Herbert Mead and Charles Horlon Cooley. Symbolic interactionists whose main focus were on the micro-level aspects of culture but also centre their attention on how culture is sustained through symbols, values, norms, ideas and objects because they are core elements in which humans use to reinforce and create social realities. Therefore, this work argues that symbolic connotations of colours are universal and are reinforced through human social interaction and their perceptions. It concludes that colours as societal symbols have a large influence on human behaviour and beliefs thereby influencing societal actions and values.

Keywords: Symbols, Values, Norms, Ideas and objects