Ere Ibeji (Male twin figure) - 2010.45.6.2_4

2010.45.6.2_4

Ere Ibeji (Male twin figure)

Maker: Unidentified Yoruba artist
Medium:wood
Geography: Ede, Nigeria
Date: before 1968
Dimensions:
27.5 x 8.5 x 7.7 cm
Object number: 2010.45.6.2
Credit Line: The Jack Lieber Collection of Yoruba Art.
Not on view
Description

Standing male figure with elaborate crown-like, multi-pronged hairdo, scarification on the cheeks and around the navel. The facial and body features are almost erased due to extensive manipulation and ritual care. This figure was purchased as a pair with 2010.45.6.1 from Yusufu Adebayo, a Yoruba trader from Ede. These two figures are carved in typical Oyo/Ede style, yet they display a rather different degree of wear. Yusufu explained the discrepancy by relating that in the event of the death of both identical twins, sometimes only one is retained by the mother, who washes and feeds it regularly and carries it about with her at all times. The other is deposited in a corner of the house of the 'babalawo' where it is cared for less frequently.
Ere ibeji are figurines carved to house the spirit of a deceased twin. The Yoruba have the highest rate of twin births in the world. Since twins tend to be more delicate babies, it is not uncommon for one or both to die during or shortly after childbirth. Because the Yoruba believe that twins have great spiritual power, and can bring either prosperity or misfortune to a household, it is important to keep the spirit of a deceased twin appeased, and prevent the spirit of the living twin from wishing to join its partner. When the mother receives the ere ibeji figure, it is bathed, clothed, and fed just like a living child. Today, people may also use commercially produced dolls or even photos as “twin figures” in the ibeji worship.

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